No power money

TIRANA (Reuters) – Albania’s state power company should take action to reduce losses due to unpaid bills and a rundown grid before receiving a loan to build a new thermal station, a senior World Bank official said yesterday. «We would like to see an aggressive action plan before financing the construction of a new thermal station,» World Bank Regional Director Christian Poortman told reporters. Impoverished Albania continues to be plagued by frequent power cuts, despite growing imports. Lack of investment, mismanagement and unpaid bills have all contributed to a deep crisis in the sector, with outages sometimes lasting up to 12 hours a day. To help improve the situation, the World Bank has pledged to contribute up to $25 million to build a new $80 million thermal power plant. The rest of the money would have to come from other international donors. But Poortman made clear the state power company must first take steps to reduce waste and inefficiency. Almost one-third of Albania’s electricity either disappears because of technical losses in the system or is not paid for by consumers. «It doesn’t make sense to build a new station if you don’t use better the energy you are generating,» he said. According to domestic statistics, losses rose 10 percent in the third quarter of 2002 to 393.142 gigawatt hours, almost a third of what was produced domestically and imported during the same period. Hydropower accounts for about half of Albania’s electricity supplies.