Since 2015, Albania and North Macedonia have been committed to the construction of a 400 kV interconnection line, but 7 years later this commitment still seems distant. And while the Macedonian side has laid the foundations for the construction of the power transmission line, in Albania the work on the ground has not yet started. According to a verification of Faktoje, it appears that the Operator of the Transmission System is waiting for the completion of some procedures with construction permits.
“The next project is the 400 kV line Elbasan – Bitola (Macedonia), which has already started the construction procedures and which will enable the completion of this network and better connection with the countries of the region.” – declared the Minister of Infrastructure Belinda Balluku in April 2019, the year when the interconnection line with North Macedonia should have been completed.
In November 2016 , when the Transmission System Operator and the German KfW Bank signed the financing agreement for the construction project of the 400 kilovolt interconnection line between Albania and North Macedonia, it was anticipated that the works would start in 2017 and the project could be completed in 2019, but none of these were achieved.
Until January 2023, OST has not started work in the field. From a verification by Faktoje, it appears that the project has remained “hostage” of the bureaucracy with the permits for the construction of two lots of the 400 kV line.
“For both lots, with the release of the relevant VKM, the process of expropriation and compensation of the owners of the lands where the works will be carried out is continuing. As for the construction permits, after the receipt of which the implementation of the project starts, they have been approved for both lots in principle by the KKT. Later, once the respective taxes are paid to the municipalities where the route of the line passes, the Territory Development Agency (AZHT) shall decise on their final format.” – says OST in an official response to Faktoje, but without giving any further clarification on the reasons for several years of delays in this project.
Unlike the Operator of the Transmission System in Albania, which does not provide clarifications, MEPSO, the ‘homology’ of the OST in North Macedonia, sheds light on some reasons that have dictated the slowdown of the project for the Macedonian part.
“It happened mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in the prices of materials and services. The difficult and uncertain conditions for procuring equipment and carrying out construction work were further aggravated by the military conflict in Ukraine, which led to an even higher trend in the prices of materials, energy and labor, and this significantly affected the dynamics of the work with which the contractor Energoinvest, B/H, realizes this project. Over 50% of the poles have already been delivered, and the delivery of conductors and insulators, with earlier tests successfully carried out, are in the process,” MEPSO says in an official response to Faktoje.
But despite the delays, North Macedonia is still one step ahead of Albania. In February of this year, field works for the construction of the power transmission line between the two countries started there.
“Based on the conditions on the ground, it is expected that the project will not be realized according to the anticipated deadline – mid-2023. Our expectations and estimates are that the realization of this investment will be extended for a year, which of course depends on the strength of the energy and economic crisis at the global level, as well as on the development of events and the military conflict in Ukraine.” – argues for Faktoje, the Operator of the Electric Transmission System in the Republic of North Macedonia.
The Macedonian side says that the works on the interconnection line are expected to be completed in the first half of 2024, while the implementation of this strategic investment is the “responsibility” of both countries.
“Our expectations are that the part of the interconnection that is in the territory of the Republic of Macedonia will be completed in 2024, but when this interconnection is put into operation it will also depend on the preparations and the dynamics of the implementation of the works by the Republic of Albania.” – concludes MEPSO.
The 400 kV Elbasan – Bitola Interconnection Line includes the construction of a new 400 kV overhead line, Elbasan 2 – Manastir; the expansion of the 400 kV Elbasan 2 substation, the construction of the new 400 kV overhead line, Elbasan 2 – Fier, as well as the expansion of the Fier substation and its connection to the transmission network.
The overall cost of the project is about 70 million Euros, of which 50 million Euros are soft loans from the German bank KfW; 14 million Euro Grant from the Investment Fund in the Western Balkans and 5 million Euro contribution from OST. Based on the verification carried out and the information collected, we decided to consider the promise of the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy for the interconnection line unfulfilled.
Editor: Viola Keta & Aimona Vogli