Albanian Daily News
Main power station damaged by fire

Albanian Economic Tribune - Jan 12, 2000

PRISHTINA - Kosovo’s main power station at Obilic, near Prishtina, has been closed following a fire, a spokesman for the UN administration UNMIK said Tuesday.

The fire - which began late Monday in a fuel storage tank at the Kosovo B generator - caused further problems in the province’s energy production which relies largely on two obsolete generators.

With Kosovo B out of production after the blaze, the only generator in operation in the province was Kosovo A - also situated at Obilic - which was not able to guarantee a reliable electricity supply.

A British fireman serving with the UN KFOR peacekeeping force and four Kosovo colleagues suffered mild poisoning from fumes as they fought for an hour and a half to put the fire out.

Emergency Plan

Kosovo’s western administrators have unveiled an emergency plan to ration electricity if supplies for the war-torn province drop below critical levels. The move comes as Kosovo is shivering under a thick blanket of snow and the administration admitted to continued difficulties with ageing power stations, run down by years of neglect.

If power supplies drop below 170 megawatts of electricity a day, Kosovo will be divided into three zones for rationing, each of them receiving two hours of electricity followed by four hours without.

Kosovo’s outdated power stations - the newest of which is 15 years old - have been barely functioning after a decade of neglect and with a mainly ethnic Albanian staff who were not allowed to work there after Belgrade scrapped Kosovar autonomy in 1989.

UNMIK officials also admitted that some fuel deliveries to power stations had been skimmed off.

Security forces are investigating the disappearance of 32 tonnes of a recent 600-tonne delivery, a spokeswoman said.

The European Union Task Force in Kosovo (TAFKO), which is paying $21m for Kosovo’s fuel and power maintenance, on Monday expressed concern at the lack of transparency governing fuel supplies. One TAFKO expert insisted that international peacekeepers should ensure every step of the delivery process to avoid any overlap between the large bureaucracies running Kosovo.

An emergency task force set up by the European Commission in November to tackle the ongoing power problem warned of the need for an urgent response plan, reporting a "risk of experiencing catastrophic utilities shortfalls."

It pointed out that UNMIK had no emergency fuel plan and that the task force "could not readily identify responsible officers for water, waste, sewage and fuel."

Importing Electricity

UNMIK has signed a deal with Athens to receive 60 megawatts of power a day from Greece, to supplement the 100-megawatt daily intake from neighbouring Albania and Macedonia. Serbia, from which Kosovo rebels fought for independence in an 18-month struggle until June last year, also contributes to Kosovo’s electricity supply, western officials said.

The Greek development minister confirmed Tuesday that Greece’s state-controlled Public Power Corporation (DEH) would help cover a shortfall in Kosovo’s electricity supply.

"I have instructed DEH to offer every possible help to cover the substantial shortfall in the region’s electricity supply," Evangelos Venizelos said in a statement.

The DEH told authorities in Kosovo that it had 60 megawatts available, which could be supplied through Albania, but it is not clear when the program will begin. However, a spokesman for Greece’s Public Power Corporation said he doubts that either Albania or Macedonia has the technical ability to transfer the electricity, which his company is willing to provide.

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]