Albania exploring use
by Southeast European Times
Albania receives 95% of its electricity from hydroelectric power plants (HPP), but a drought this year affected reservoirs levels and the plants cannot meet continually rising energy demands. As in previous winters, restrictions, blackouts and various stopgap measures are expected.
The country once produced enough energy not only to meet its needs but to export to neighbouring countries. Since the early 1990s, however, demand has risen fourfold, reaching 6,800 GWh. At the same time, electricity output has shrunk by half, to around 4,000 GWh. Scant rainfall and the antiquated state of the HPPs are to blame.
The power supply in Tirana and other cities has been interrupted up to eight hours a day, while some rural areas are cut off for as long as 15 hours a day. Each winter, the situation deteriorates further.
Prompted by the crisis, renewable energy resource projects have become a priority. Prime Minister Sali Berisha said on November 7th that the government will support any project that contributes to the diversification of energy resources.
Representatives from Camozzi Holding SpA and Westinghouse met with Berisha in late October to discuss possible investments in nuclear energy production. The companies have expressed interest in building a nuclear spare parts plant in Durres.
"We aim to turn Albania into a production and exporting centre for energy in the region," Berisha said. Opposition politicians, however, were less enthusiastic. The vice chairman of the Socialist parliamentary group, Erion Brace, said the disadvantages must be taken into consideration.
"The operation of a nuclear power plant requires our country to transport and store nuclear material. Nuclear operations result in harmful radioactive wastes that threaten the health of the public," he said, calling for the idea to be put before the general public.
The Berisha administration has said it may call a referendum on nuclear energy in the future. At the same time, it is exploring other, less controversial, renewable energy sources. In late October, two major European companies proposed large projects to the government.
One firm, Italgest, proposed building a large wind power plant near Kryevidhi -- 50km from Tirana. The facility would have a capacity of 150mw and the company's investment would be 200m euros.
The second company, Naanovo, proposed a solar energy project that would include building a solar plant near Durres, 40km from Tirana. During the next few months, administration officials will review the various proposals and move forward on the projects they think are most likely to end the energy crisis.