North Macedonia’s state-owned power utility ESM said it is developing 12 power plant projects with a total planned capacity of nearly 1.8 GW, which exceeds the current overall capacity. Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski said there are three areas of investments in the energy sector – two new gas pipelines, the renewable energy sector including the Čebren pumped storage hydropower plant, and the improvement of the electricity distribution network.
CEO of Elektrani na Severna Makedonija (ESM) Vasko Kovačevski said the company has been working on the energy transition since 2019 in line with the government’s policy and the country’s energy strategy until 2040.
Nevertheless, coal and fuel oil are still strategic energy sources due to the energy crisis, said Kovačevski at the conference held on the occasion of the first year of the current cabinet, Makfax agency reported.
Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski asserted that the project for pumped storage hydroelectric plant Čebren is one of the most important ones for the country, adding it is expected to be implemented with Greek power utility Public Power Corp. (PPC).
ESM has been working on the energy transition since 2019
ESM is developing 12 projects with 1.76 GW in total projected power, said Kovačevski, compared to the 1.42 GW it currently operates.
“As far as coal and fuel oil are concerned, these are the energy sources that, as a state, currently provide us with basic energy. Until we build gas power plants in REK Bitola and until we build Čebren as a pumped storage hydroelectric plant and until the mass rollout of battery systems for renewable sources, we will have to rely on coal and fuel oil,” in his view.
Kovačevski announced that ESM plans to increase electricity production by 20% this year.
Overhauls and maintenance of power plants in the country are necessary
ESM has increased output to 21 GWh per day, Kovačevski said. However, he also recalled that its power plants owned are 40, 50, and 60 years old, pointing out their amortization is large and that they often need overhauls.
North Macedonia has not had any significant investments in new power plants in the last 30 years
North Macedonia has not had any significant investment in new power plants in the last 30 years, but it can be partly compensated by an acceleration in pace and big steps forward, the CEO of ESM said.
ESM’s capital investments
Among ESM’s capital investments are projects for solar power plants on abandoned coal mines in the complexes of REK Bitola and REK Oslomej, a 100 MW solar power plant in the Tikveš valley, and the Miravci and Bogdanci wind parks. The second phase is underway for the latter.
The ESM list includes the Čebren pumped storage plant and a hydropower project in the Vardar valley with 337 MW in capacity, for which a feasibility study was completed in 2017.
The government is developing the energy sector in three areas
Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski said more than 150 MW of capacity from renewable energy sources was installed in the past year. He also mentioned the construction of state-owned energy projects was continuing.
More than 150 MW of renewables was installed in the past year
Kovačevski said a complete replacement of coal-fired thermal power plant Oslomej with photovoltaic plants is underway, and that 10 MW has already been installed. The design and construction of the remaining 110 MW are being prepared.
The prime minister explained that state investments in green transformation are underway in three areas and that the goal is energy independence, the Centar.mk news website reported.
The first area is the deployment and diversification of energy sources, according to Kovačevski. North Macedonia has one gas source, from Bulgaria, so a pipeline project from Greece is being implemented, together with one for a second gas pipeline from Bulgaria.
The second area is investmenting in renewables, he said. Last year, after 14 unsuccessful tenders, Greek power utility PPC passed the first round for the Čebren pumped storage hydropower plant. Negotiations are still ongoing.
After 14 unsuccessful tenders, Greece’s PPC successfully passed the first round for HPP Čebren
In addition to generating electricity, Čebren is planned to use excess electricity from photovoltaic facilities to charge the upper reservoir.
The third area is upgrading the distribution and transmission grids and establishing interconnections with all the countries in the region, Kovačevski said.