Kosovo* was forced to introduce rotating outages due to low electricity production and high imports. The Western Balkans are primarily dependent on obsolete coal power plants and there is not enough lignite, while extremely bad hydrological conditions prevent hydropower plants from partially making up for the gap.
Kosovo* became the first in Europe since the war in Ukraine to start disconnecting its consumers from the electricity grid at regular intervals. As units in its only two coal-fired thermal power plants are undergoing overhauls to prepare for the winter, the output is too low for the current heatwave.
The European Network of Transmission System Operators – ENTSO-E warned the authorities in Prishtina that the volatility and disparity between power production and imports are disturbing the stability of the entire European system. The situation was similar last winter after a series of breakdowns in thermal power plants including those in Serbia and North Macedonia.
Albania wasn’t able to help Kosovo* avoid power cuts
Kosovo* introduced emergency measures two weeks ago in the electricity supply sector. When the rolling outages started several days ago, the government first declared the situation was stabilized with the help of Albania, but the power cuts soon continued.
Albania has an electric power system that runs almost exclusively on hydropower. The latest statistical report showed net electricity production in the country dropped 40% in the first half of the year on an annual basis amid a heavy drought, which is also affecting the rest of the Western Balkans and most of Europe.
Coal shortage, poor hydropower threaten energy stability
Government officials in the region are calling on institutions, companies and citizens to save energy. North Macedonia even rolled out measures and recommendations for reducing electricity consumption by 15%. On the bright side, state-owned power utility ESM said it increased production by 40% in its two coal plants in the first half of the year, but it still lacks coal to run at full capacity.
Serbia doesn’t have enough lignite for the upcoming winter, according to Dragoslav Ljubičić from the energy and mining branch of the Nezavisnost trade union. Conversely, top officials keep repeating there would be no power cuts. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Mining and Energy Zorana Mihajlović said Serbia paid EUR 1.5 billion for electricity and gas imports since the start of the energy crisis and that would need another EUR 3 billion through March for power and heating.
Montenegro’s state-owned coal and electricity producer EPCG said that the power supply is uncertain after September. The company suggested rolling outages and an increase in tariffs as possible options.
Government-controlled power utilities in the Western Balkans are being exhausted financially from importing electricity at sky-high prices, which also hampers the plans for investments that are necessary to prop up production.