March 23, 2018 / 6:01 PM / 6 months ago

Kosovo's coal-fired power plant unit returns online

PRISTINA (Reuters) - Kosovo power utility KEK said on Friday a 270-megawatt unit of its Kosovo B coal-fired power plant had returned online after an unexpected outage late on Thursday forced electricity distributor KESCO to start planned power cuts.

“KEK is currently working at full capacity,” the utility said in a statement, adding that the unit had been taken offline due to minor technical defects.

Kosovo’s energy system has been under pressure since the beginning of March when European grid lobby ENTSO-E detected that Kosovo had been sapping power from the European network between mid-January and March, while Serbia, which is in charge of balancing Kosovo’s grid, had failed to fill the gap.

As a result, the European network’s frequency had deviated from its standard of 50 Hertz (Hz) value and electric clocks, powered by the system frequency rather than by quartz crystal, had been running at a delay of nearly six minutes.

Kosovo has in the meantime found a short-term fix to the problem and started paying for the power it had taken from the joint network, but in order to find a long-term solution and return the network’s frequency to normal it needs to resolve the energy row with Serbia.

“We hope that the delay will be completely caught up by mid-May if all goes according to plan,” an ENTSO-E spokeswoman told Reuters, adding a long-lasting solution to the problem was in the hands of Serbian and Kosovar authorities.

Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008. Belgrade, which refuses to recognize Kosovo, has committed to normalize ties with Pristina as part of its push to join the European Union. However, little progress has been made as the two sides have conflicting claims about ownership of the Kosovo power grid.

Although they signed a deal on operating their grids in 2015, it has never been enacted. Serbs in the north of Kosovo, who do not recognize its institutions, refuse to pay the Kosovo grid operator.

Serbia’s grid operator, EMS, has also obstructed KOSTT’s efforts to become a fully-fledged ENTSO-E member.

Kosovo relies on coal for most of its power generation. It has 880 MW of installed capacity at two aging coal-fired power plants and 35 MW of installed capacity at hydropower plants.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo; Editing by Ivana Sekularac and Gareth Jones

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