Kosovo, Serbia face power outages amid winter chill, surging energy prices

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PRISTINA/BELGRADE, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Kosovo's biggest coal-fired power plant shutdown both its units on Wednesday due to a technical issue, stopping central heating in the capital Pristina and forcing the country to import electricity at high prices, state-owned KEK power utility said.

Heavy snow, cold weather and poor maintenance also knocked out a third of power production capacity in neighbouring Serbia, leaving thousands of homes there without electricity or heating.

The outages add to problems facing energy producers across Europe, which is grappling with rocketing gas and power prices as demand surges with the economic recovery from the pandemic.

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Kosovo, which depends on coal-fired power plants for 90% of its energy needs, imported electricity at 250 euros per megawatt hour (MWh) in recent days, up from 60 euros per MWh at the same time last year, Economy Minister Artane Rizvanolli said.

KEK said it was working to restore production by Thursday in at least one unit of the Kosovo B plant, which has total installed capacity of 680 megawatts (MW). It blamed a boiler leak for the shutdown of one of the units at the plant.

As winter weather hit Serbia's power capacity, President Aleksandar Vucic said late on Tuesday the country now had to import about a quarter of its energy needs.

Like Kosovo and other countries in the region, Serbia is heavily reliant on coal-fired plants, accounting for 70% of energy needs. It aims to invest 17 billion euros ($19 billion) over the next 20 years on hydropower, solar and other renewables to cut emissions. read more

Serbian Energy Minister Zorana Mihajlovic said the EPS power utility needed to invest more in maintenance and expanding production.

According to data from Serbia’s EMS power transmission operator, the country was importing 1.425 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by noon on Wednesday.

($1 = 0.8881 euros)

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Reporting by Fatos Bytyci and Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Edmund Blair

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