Albanian Daily News
Infrastructure concerns delay Kosovo electricity

Jan 31, 2000

PRISHTINA - Electricity from Greece, which would alleviate shortages in Kosovo, has been held up by infrastructure problems in Albania and Macedonia, United Nations officials said. The power would have to transit these countries to reach Kosovo.

According to the UN mission in Kosovo, the province needs 620-650 megawatts of power at peak periods this winter. The main power plant at Obilic can only generate about 450 megawatts.

Although the station escaped damage during the 78-day NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia last year, it has suffered severe neglect over the past decade. Approximately 100 megawatts are currently being imported from Serbia, Macedonia and Albania.

Greece has promised to donate at least 60 megawatts of power a day and said it could substantially increase this amount if necessary. However, infrastructure problems in neighbouring Macedonia and Albania are presently preventing delivery of the donated power.

Electricity can be cut off for up to eight hours a day in most areas. Some households have even suffered power cuts for more than 24 hours. But a rotation system has been introduced to cope with the deficit.

The long power outages during the harsh winter have forced many residents to resort to wood-burning stoves because central heating systems are dependent on electricity. But even fire wood is often not sufficiently available.

Macedonians fear that transmitting power through their country could cause problems in their own power grid, even though broken lines for such transmissions have been repaired, said Joan Pierce, responsible for donor coordination and utilities in Kosovo.

"Everybody agrees there is some risk," Pierce said. "But the Macedonians tend to take the line that any risk is not acceptable."

Officials in Macedonia have said opening the disused Negotino power plant in the west of the country would enable Greece to transit through to Kosovo. But financing is not yet secured and negotiations are dragging on.

The United Nations is also looking into supplying energy from Greece through Albania, Pierce says, although infrastructure problems exist there as well.

In early January, Kosovo’s top international administrator Bernard Kouchner blamed Macedonian authorities for holding up at the border 20 tons of oil needed to run the plants.

Repairing the two main power plants, Kosovo A and Kosovo B in Obilic, ten kilometres (six miles) east of the capital Prishtina, is also proving to be an uphill struggle.

Each of the two units at the 15-year-old Kosovo B station have a capacity of about 200-250 megawatts, but one was shut down after a fire there earlier this month. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. Once begun, repairs will take at least four weeks, said Bill White, head of British company Mott MacDonald in charge of restoring the power plant.