By Erl Murati
Albert Jazexhi, 51, is the owner of a coffee bar in the centre of Tirana. “It is the third day in row that we don’t have electrical power. I can’t switch on the express coffee machine, can’t make a coffee or a tea. If it goes on like this, it is better to shut down the business before I go bankrupt,” he tells SETimes.
Lack of electric power is not new in Tirana. Albanians try to adjust their work with the power timetable distributed by energy authorities. And many prayers for rain are said, as the country’s main source of electric power is hydro-power plants.
Much of the region is struggling with power shortages because of a historic drought that has lowered rivers and is threatening crops and wildlife populations throughout the Balkans.
Albanian Power Corporation (KESH) head Engjell Zeqo tells SETimes that hydro plants basins are not at the levels they should be.
“Despite hydrologic conditions, KESH has managed — and continues to manage — this critical situation,” Zeqo says. He claims the company has provided a power supply to its consumers without interruption.
“We supply the electric power demand today by import and country production. As for the future, KESH will continue to import electric power maxims — combining import with country production to supply consumers,” he says.
Economic analyst Fatos Cocoli says that power problems are typical for Albania. “If there is little rainfall, we have power interruptions. But I don’t believe it will be the same as the previous power crisis,” he tells SETimes.
According to him, even if a drop of rain doesn’t fall during the winter, it will be possible to minimise the crisis’ effect with energy imports.
“Of course this unforeseen expenditure will burden the state budget, and could even condition, at a certain level, economic growth,” Cocoli tells SETimes.
Macedonia, Greece, Montenegro and Albania are all importing electricity this winter. Hydroelectricity plants in Serbia last month were producing around 10kw hours, the lowest production level since 1926, because of decreased water flow. Romania reduced power exports after its leading producer, Hidroelektrika, was forced to terminate commercial contracts in the wake of an October accident, and Republika Srpska was forced to cancel sales contracts because of the drought.
In December, the Albanian government authorised KESH to earmark 39m euros to enable energy purchases.
“This is a historical drought. The situation is difficult, but we are doing the impossible for electric power supply,” Prime Minister Sali Berisha told the media.
Former Energy Minister Pajtim Bello says the difficult energy situation Albania has experienced for the last 20 years is a consequence of bad management.
“Almost 38% of electric power is lost on the distribution system. A huge amount of electric power is being stolen, and unpaid electric bills are a big problem.” Last year, only 78% of customers paid their electricity bills, Bello tells SETimes.
The future is difficult to predict. On average, there is a yearly increase in demand of 3% to 5%.
“The hydro-energetic potential in Albania is only 35% useful. Future governments should do much more in this direction,” Bello says.