Western Balkan deserves thorough attention from energy utilities by Dr Lorenc Gordani on 10th May 2017

The Western Balkan countries represent among some of the most water-rich countries with regard to the amount of water available per person (10,600 m3/cap, which is twice the European average). Among several other water uses and purposes (e.g. agriculture, irrigation, tourism & recreation, water supply etc.), the potential energy of water in river systems is used for the production of electricity in hydro power plants (HPPs) of various types: reservoir, derivation, run-of-river and reversible HPPs.

In the Western Balkans, there is still a large and as yet unexploited potential, which could cover both peak- and base-load demand for electricity, together with providing ancillary services, stabilising electricity networks, etc. Based on various sources, it is estimated that, depending on the country, between approximately 43-85% of the technical hydropower potential remains currently unexploited.

There are considerable differences in both available hydro potential as well as in historical hydropower sector development, from no more than about 75 MW of hydropower capacity being installed in Kosovo, to approximately 670 MW in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 1,840 MW in Albania, 2,180 MW in Bosnia and Herzegovina and 3,160 MW in Serbia (the status as of end-December 2016). This amounts to around 8,600 MW in total in the Western Balkans (WB) 6 region as a whole, represented by 57 HPPs larger than 10 MW and 387 HPPs smaller than 10 MW (444 in total).

According to the last survey, the 57 larger HPPs represent approximately 93% of the installed hydropower capacity (and approx. 97% in terms of electricity generated from hydropower in the last 15 years) while the other 387 small HPPs (SHPPs) make up the remaining 7% in terms of number and 3% in terms of average annual generation, respectively. An important historical factor is that about 90% of the presently installed hydropower capacity was constructed and commissioned in the former Social Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) before 1990 (of which 7.6% even before 1955), with only 10% being developed in the years after its disintegration.

Hydropower development used to be an asset of the former SFRJ and Albania. The countries had its own research, engineering and industrial base which was able to plan, design, procure and construct any equipment used in HPPs, for both large or small HPPs. HPP technology was even an export product of SFRJ, primarily exported to developing (nonaligned) countries of the world.

The term “hydropower potential”, its definition and practical meaning has many interpretations in practice. This contentious understanding is often an element of debate in general public circles as well as among professionals and has even been used for manipulation and tendentious interpretation by several lobbying groups who have conflicting objectives. However, one aspect is perfectly clear, that the further “hydropower potential” development possibilities, under the current and foreseeable circumstances throughout the WB6 region, deserves thorough attention within the expert and energy companies.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author at the “lorenc_gordani@albaniaenergy.org”.

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