North Macedonia has started the process of switching its thermal power plants in Bitola and Negotino from coal and fuel oil, respectively, to systems that can use both natural gas and hydrogen. Converting the two facilities is part of the country’s strategy to phase out coal and other fossil fuels.
The Government of North Macedonia initiated the process of the development of projects for power plants that would run on gas and hydrogen.
In its last session, the cabinet approved a report that the Ministry of Economy prepared.
In the document, it highlighted the need to initiate projects for the Negotino regional gas-hydrogen power plant with a capacity of 800 MW, and the Bitola gas-hydrogen power plant of 250 MW to 300 MW, the government said.
State-owned power company Elektrani na Severna Makedonija is tasked with starting negotiations
It tasked state-owned power company Elektrani na Severna Makedonija (ESM) with starting negotiations with a potential strategic partner on potential cooperation in the two planned investments.
The country intends to construct a gas pipeline to connect to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis, Greece. It would be an alternative to its only gas import option via pipeline with Bulgaria.
Of note, North Macedonia said in December that it would prepare an investment plan for a coal phaseout by 2030, grid strengthening, new capacities and the just transition of its two coal regions.
Conversion of power plants to fossil fuels
In October 2020, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said the first unit in the coal power plant within the REK Bitola mining and energy complex would be closed and then switched to natural gas from a planned pipeline, as part of the strategy to phase out coal.
Then-CEO of ESM Vasko Kovačevski said at the time that the unit could operate for five more years at most. He added that the company would modernize the power plant’s remaining two units so that they could work for ten more years.
The power plant has a capacity of 700 MW. It produces 75% of the electricity in the country.
Until the energy crisis broke in 2021, the Negotino power plant, with a capacity of 210 MW, operated rarely, serving as a cold reserve for the country’s power system. Zaev’s cabinet said, also in 2020, that it would be converted to natural gas.