Kosovo has been facing its most serious energy crisis to date since the summer of 2017 because the government has failed to reach an agreement with residents of the village of Šipitule to buy land to dig coal. Kosovo has coal reserves estimated at 14 billion tons, the fifth largest in the world but the problem now lies in 52 hectares of land whose owners want more money for their houses and farms then the government has offered.
Kosovo’s two thermal power plants – Kosovo A and Kosovo B – had reserves of coal for just a few weeks at the end of July and the Kosovo electric power company (KEK) filed a request in mid-July with the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning for the expropriation of eight houses and surrounding land in the village. That request was approved by the ministry later that month.
The problem was temporarily solved early in August when the KEK reached agreement on expropriation with the owners of the two houses closest to the open pit mine which supplies coal for the two power plants.
Kosovo’s only operating open pit mine is in the municipality of Obilić but the pit has reached the edge of the village of Šipitule and the KEK has to buy land and houses to expand its mining operation. The KEK announced its intention to start expropriation in the village several years ago when there were less than 100 houses but in the meantime more houses have been built close to the mine pit.
In 2009, the Kosovo government declared an area of 150 square kilometers around Obilić an area of special economic interest, that is a new mine, and in 2011 it adopted a spatial plan for that part of Kosovo which gave the government the authority to expropriate land for the needs of energy production.
KEK Director Arben Gjukaj sent a letter to the mayor of Obilić late in June warning that the the two power plants have enough coal for just two weeks of production at full capacity, adding that the open pit mine has to be expanded.
The estimated cost of the expropriation of all the land and houses in the village is EUR 15.5 million.
Energy poverty is considered to be one of the main obstacles standing in the way of economic growth in Kosovo. A World Bank report said in 2016 that the best solution to meeting the energy needs of consumers in Kosovo is a mixture of the existing thermal power plants and the production of power from renewable sources which has to be developed.
According to figures released by the Kosovo government, the private sector of the economy suffered damages of almost EUR 300 million because of power shortages in 2016.
Power production in Kosovo
Kosovo’s two coal-powered plants produce about 97 percent of the electricity it needs while the remaining three percent come from renewable source plants such as small hydropower plants.
Kosovo also imports electricity from neighboring Albania when that country’s hydropower plants produce surplus power.
The Kosovo A power plant has a capacity of 345 MW but it is in bad shape after 40 years in operation and is considered to be the single worst pollutant in Europe. The authorities in Priština have drawn up plans to shut it down but can’t do that until they manage to secure sufficient power to replace its output and that is impossible at present.
The Kosovo B power plant has a capacity of 540 MW but it needs maintenance and restoration to bring it in line with the European Union environmental standards. It has been producing electricity for 27 years.