Bulgaria-FYROM power deal

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria said yesterday it had signed a deal with its Balkan neighbor the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to build a new joint 150-kilometer (93.2-mile) power transmission line as part of plans to create a regional energy market. The new 400-kilovolt grid would also fit Bulgaria’s plans to boost its electricity sales and keep its position as the region’s leading power exporter. Bulgaria’s power export monopoly NETC said the new power line would cost a total of 50 million euros, most of which would be secured by a bank loan. NETC said in a statement that FYROM’s electricity company Elektrostopanstvo received a 40.5-million-euro loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to build the power line. Elektrostopanstvo would also construct the 80-km stretch on Bulgarian territory, for which NETC would pay by electricity supplies to FYROM, the statement said. Power exports, which last year totaled 6.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), are an important source of revenue for Bulgaria, one of the poorest European Union candidate countries. NETC has said its exports will fall to some 5.3 billion kWh this year due to shutdowns of nuclear reactors and halted sales to Turkey. The company expects next year’s exports to stand at some 4.0-5.0 billion kWh. Turkey halted power imports from Bulgaria in April, saying Sofia had failed to press ahead with two infrastructure projects with Turkish contractors, which were part of a 10-year bilateral energy deal. Bulgaria used to export 3.5-4.0 billion kWh of power to energy-hungry Turkey a year, more than half of its total annual exports, under the energy deal. NETC has managed to partly make up for suspended sales to Turkey by exports to Greece, FYROM, Serbia and Montenegro and Albania.