SHIPITULLE, Kosovo (Reuters) - Kosovo is on the verge of an energy collapse with its power corporation holding only two-weeks worth of coal reserves.
The problem is there for all to see in the village of Shipitulle where large and rusted excavators, resembling Transformers, stand idle.
They can’t get to the coal, even though there is lots of it.
Kosovo has more than 14 billion tonnes of proven lignite reserves, the fifth largest in the world. But it has been forced to burn up coal reserves to feed its two creaking power plants.
The reason is a government failure to take over private land to get to the lignite it needs to feed the plants.
State-owned energy corporation KEK needs to take over 52 hectares (128 acres) of private property to get to untapped coal, but local inhabitants want more money to resettle and the government has not successfully addressed the problem since it arose in 2013.
“We will work at full capacity just for another two weeks,” KEK’s CEO Arben Gjukaj told Reuters. “In the next weeks we will face a significant shortfall of electricity from the generating units ... it all depends on how we will spend the last reserves”.
Officials from the prime minister’s office and the ministry in charge would not comment when contacted by Reuters.
Politics is partly to blame for the impasse. Landlocked Kosovo held snap elections early in June and no new government is expected to be formed soon as no party won a majority to govern alone and forming a coalition is proving difficult.
If a solution to the energy crisis is not found, the freezing winter will hit the country of 1.8 million people hard. It might also mean importing more power to meet demand, a cost for an economy U.S. officials rank 140th in the world in terms of GDP per capita.
Meanwhile, excavators in Shipitulle stand idle. They stopped operating a year ago after coming 150 meters (yards) from the houses to remove 70 meters-deep of wasteland to uncover the lignite.
Three years ago when KEK told home owners it needed their land, the area had 99 houses but inhabitants have in the meantime built another 120 houses hoping to profit from the expropriation law. Authorities did nothing to stop these illegal buildings.
The expropriation cost, initially put at 4.5 million euros ($5.27 million), has now grown to 15.5 million euros and will have to be paid by KEK.
“With this price and the conditions they offered I don’t want to leave my house. They can only drag me out with force,” said Izet Krasniqi as he looked at excavators few hundred meters from his house.
Reporting by Fatos Bytyco Editing by Maja Zuvela/Jeremy Gaunt