* The new project could create 10,000 jobs
* The cost to build the plant estimated at up to $1.6 bln
By Fatos Bytyci
PRISTINA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - ContourGlobal could start building a coal-fired power plant in Kosovo in 18 months, in the first major investment in the country’s energy sector in decades aimed at curbing power shortages and creating jobs, an official at the U.S. power company said.
The cost of the project is estimated at up to 1.4 billion euros ($1.60 billion), with a third to be financed by ContourGlobal and the remainder via loans.
The New York-based company was the only bidder for the 660 megawatt (MW) plant that will replace the Balkan country’s 40-year-old Kosovo A power plant, seen as one of the worst polluters in Europe.
ContourGlobal Executive Vice-President Garry Levesley said the commercial offer was presented to the Kosovo government on Tuesday and that he expected the contract to be awarded in six months.
“If things go well, that could be 18 months from today when we can start digging the ground,” Levesley told Reuters. He said the plant’s two units, with 330 MW capacity each, may go online between 2020-2021. Their lifespan would be 40 years.
Levesley said that around 10,000 jobs would be created during the construction of the plant which would employ 500 people once it comes on stream. He said the project had received backing from the World Bank and the European Union.
Despite being rich in lignite - or brown coal used mostly in as a fuel for steam-electric power generation - Kosovo faces severe power shortages mainly in winter because the country’s two ageing power plants struggle to meet demand.
In 2012, Kosovo sold its power distribution firm to a Turkish consortium.
Kosovo planned in 2005 to build a third power plant, but investors were put off when the government repeatedly changed tender terms.
ContourGlobal operates around 4,000 MW in power generating capacity in 20 countries.
Editing by Maja Zuvela and Susan Thomas