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Published on SETimes (http://www.setimes.com)


Southeast European Power Grid Reconnected with West


For 13 years, the electricity networks of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia and Romania have been isolated from the rest of Europe. That will change with the resumption of power transmissions between the two areas, set to begin on 1 November.

By Miranda Novak for Southeast European Times in Zagreb - 18/10/04

The Croatian Electrical Utility Company (HEP) moved to reconnect Southeastern Europe's electricity grid with the rest of the continent earlier this month -- an event of great importance for the European electricity industry. The reconnected system will have 400m users, representing the largest electrical energy system in the world in terms of consumption.

"This provides momentum for globalization of the European electricity market and lifts supply safety to a higher level," HEP Chief Executive Ivan Mravak said on 11 October.

Ever since the destruction of a large power plant at Ernestinovo, in eastern Croatia, during fighting in 1991, the electrical energy networks of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia and Romania have been isolated. These countries will now be able to rejoin the EU power market. Power transmission between the two reconnected areas is set to begin on 1 November.

In spite of detailed preparations, experts warn that temporary disruptions could occur across the region. Electrical energy systems operate according to the principle of connected vessels, with the problems in one system quickly spilling over into the next one -- as was the case during the power collapse in the United States and Canada in 2003. A faulty power line or plant outage in Croatia -- or in elsewhere in the network -- could trigger collapses in neighboring countries.

"We will need at least one to two months to check whether everything has been done properly, in order to rule out a possible collapse of the system," says George Katsigiannakis, executive director of the Hellenic Transmission System Operator, which operates Greece's electrical system.

The reconnection process was launched in early October with the opening of a 400kw electrical line from the Ernestinovo station to Ugljevik in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Five remote electrical lines -- in Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Serbia-Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina -- were then joined to the two parts of the European electrical energy system.

"The high stability of the system will be monitored in the coming weeks to see if it remains stable," said Walter Sattinger of Switzerland's ETRANS, an adviser to the project.

Joining the two systems makes Croatia's energy network an important transfer point. It will improve HEP's limited capacities for import and export of electricity, especially from countries where power is considerably cheaper than in Croatia. However, the implications go well beyond any single country. The EU, which is assisting with the project, sees an opportunity to reduce energy costs -- in turn boosting corporate competitivenes.