Bulgaria-FYROM power grid

SOFIA – Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) will speed up the construction of a planned power grid linking the two countries to sooth supply fears in Skopje after Kosovo declared independence, Bulgaria’s economy and energy minister said yesterday. Petar Dimitrov told an energy conference in Sofia that the 400-kilovolt grid will be in operation in July. «The new political situation makes Macedonians very worried that if something happens they might be left without electricity,» Dimitrov said, referring to fears that Serbia might disrupt power and other supplies to the breakaway southern province that borders FYROM. Kosovo’s Albanian majority declared independence from Serbia with Western backing on February 17. Serbia and its main ally Russia reject the secession. «We will sharply accelerate the construction of the power link with FYROM,» Dimitrov said. The long-delayed 400-kilovolt electricity grid is planned to be 150 kilometers long, of which 80 km will be on Bulgarian territory. Under the deal, first announced in 2003, Sofia will pay for the construction of its part mainly in electricity supplies to its smaller southern neighbor, which suffers power shortages and needs imports. Once the main power exporter in the Balkans, Bulgaria was forced to sharply reduce exports over the past year after the closure of two 440-megawatt nuclear power reactors in 2006, which was a condition for European Union membership. Dimitrov said Bulgaria will cover with exports only 13 percent of the electricity deficit in the region this year, down from 37 percent last year and 60 percent in 2006. Another reason for the drop is upgrade shutdowns at Bulgaria’s Maritsa East coal-fired power complex, he said.