ECONOMY

Power shortages warning

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria yesterday warned of a power deficit in the Balkans as it prepares to shut down two 440-megawatt nuclear reactors by the end of the year as agreed with the European Union. The leading power exporter in Southeastern Europe, Bulgaria has drastically cut electricity exports to its neighbors after problems with the supply of the Ukrainian coal used in its thermal power plants, said Economy Minister Rumen Ovcharov. The Black Sea country will suspend power exports next year and sell only small excess quantities on spot markets after it shuts down the two Russian-made reactors as agreed with Brussels because of safety concerns. Ovcharov said he will warn the European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs in a letter about the potential power problems Bulgaria’s neighbors will face. «The panic in the region is already kicking off. A tender for power imports for 2007 has collapsed in Greece, in Kosovo the situation is the same,» Ovcharov told an economic forum.» «The European Union had promised power supplies for the region. Let see now how it will deliver.» Ovcharov’s ruling Socialist party has long complained of the EU’s requirement to shut down the reactors at the aging Kozloduy nuclear plant ahead of joining the bloc on January 1, but he said the country would keep its promise. «Units 3 and 4 will be unplugged from the grid on December 31 this year. But after that we should be clear about the consequences,» he said. Kozloduy has had two security-related incidents this year, although authorities say no radiation has leaked form the plant. Electricity exports to Greece, Romania, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo stood around 7.6 billion kWh in 2005 and are expected to stay around the same level in 2006, power exporter NETC said. The two 440-MW units produce around 6 billion kWh of electricity annually.