Kosovo’s electricity imports surged by 61.7% in 2017, as state power company KEK was forced to slash its output amid shortages of coal feedstock.
State statistics published on February 14 showed that the Balkan nation imported 742,000 MWh of power last year, up from 458,800 MWh in 2016. The growth was driven by an 8.4% fall in generation at the country’s two ageing coal-fired thermal power plants (TPPs) to 5.73 million MWh. The stations, located on the outskirts of Pristina, account for over 95% of national output.
Kosovo has over 14 billion tonnes of proven lignite coal reserves, the fifth largest supply in the world. But in recent years, the government has struggled to convince residents to sell their land to make way for the construction of new mines. National coal production slumped to 7.57 million tonnes last year, down from 8.8 million tonnes in 2016, leaving Kosovo’s two TPPs without enough fuel.
In July, KEK warned that the nation was on the brink of an energy collapse, reporting that its Kosovo-A and Kosovo-B power stations only had enough lignite to last for two weeks. At the time, the company was trying to acquire 52 hectares of private land in the villages of Hade and Shipitulle, near Pristina, in order to access untapped coal reserves.
In December, state grid operator KEDS/KESCO revealed it was importing up to two-thirds of power consumption because of disruptions in coal supplies, according to Reuters. Increased imports have placed a considerable financial toll on Kosovo, ranked 140th in the world in terms of GDP per capita. KEDS/KESCO claimed to have spent up to 300 euros (US$373) per MWh contracting power supplies for January, versus a cost of 30 euros (US$37.30) for domestic electricity.
In a positive development, the Kosovan government reported in late December that it had finished expropriating all necessary land near Pristina for coal mining. This paved the way for KEK to relaunch a 260-MW unit at the Kosovo-B plant that month, followed by a 130-MW unit at Kosovo-B last week. On January 24, Kosovan Prime Minister Ramus Haradinaj declared that only 17% of the country’s power was being imported, describing the situation as stable. He suggested that 100% of demand could be met by local supply by mid-February.
Kosovo’s power demand climbed from 3.6 million MWh to 4.1 million MWh last year, while exports slumped from 1.06 million MWh to 885,700 MWh. The country’s only other power source besides its TPPs is a mid-sized hydroelectric power plant (HPP) in the north, which produced 180,200 MWh of energy in 2017, versus 234,600 MWh the year before.
The third plant
Kosovo is planning to replace the 40-year-old Kosovo-A with a new coal-burning station that will be built by UK-based ContourGlobal. At a cost of US$1.18 billion, the 500-MW plant has been touted by the government as the single biggest investment in post-war Kosovo. A final agreement on the project was reached in December and construction is slated to start in either late 2018 or early 2019. The station is due online in 2023 and will have a lifespan of four decades.