After the war in Serbia, and the return of the Kosovar refugees, ensuring a reliable supply of power became a matter of life and death. How was power provided?
The world watched as Kosovo was torn apart this summer. When the bombing stopped, and the refugees returned home, there was a race against time. The race was to install power before winter.
The problems facing the reconstruction team were not merely the result of bomb damage. Other problems came about as a result of a decade or more of neglect and poor operation and maintenance, and the loss of the vast majority of removable equipment when the Serbian forces pulled out of Kosovo.
All mobile equipment had been removed from the mines and power stations. All useful items and spare parts that could be moved were taken, all information was either removed, destroyed or made difficult to obtain.
Problems in Kosovo
The main challenges in repairing the Kosovan power system are:
The two main power plants, Kosovo A and Kosovo B, were in a poor state of repair. Kosovo A was first commissioned in 1965, and consists of 5 units (see Table 1).
Kosovo B was built in the 1980s, and is in better condition than Kosovo A (see Table 2).
Key to the issue of getting reliable power supplies in Kosovo is getting the coal mines operable. Coal conveyors and additional earth-moving plant are needed for the mines.
The plant was found to be in very poor condition. Mott MacDonald recommended that a risk assessment be carried out to see whether or not it should be kept operating. A four unit availability for the winter gives the most options, allowing for inevitable breakdowns.
Interbus transformers IT2 and IT3 are not available. IT3 has faulted and IT2 is missing. Either of these transformers is crucial for system security and to assist in achieving the voltage levels to synchronise the A station units.
All the boilers are in a poor state, with the tubing worn and corroded. Boiler pressure is limited to 110 bar to extend tube life and reduce the number of forced outages. Although this reduces the units’ capacity, it is the preferred option to get through the winter.
There are large dust, pulverised fuel, and ash build-ups on the boiler and pipework, and around the walkways and gantries. This is a serious safety hazard. A1 boiler is in danger of collapse if the dust is not removed.
The transmission system is very insecure, creating a potential risk of serious plant damage and can create a safety hazard for staff attempting a restart during hours of darkness.
Units B1 and 2 turbine low pressure blades have cracks, and Unit B2 high pressure steam chest has cracks developing. ABB Alstom estimates a necessary downtime of 6-8 weeks to carry out inspections and refurbishment.
Unit B1 and 2 standby boiler feed water circulating pumps were not available. One is at KSB Austria works, already repaired and awaiting final payment. The other, like so much else, was removed to Serbia, location unknown. These need returning to site to give security in case the duty pumps should fail.
Unit B1 standby boiler feed pump is not available, having been removed to Serbia.
The boilers were not preserved with chemicals when shutdown and drained of water. Corrosion will probably cause problems with water and steam purity on pressure raising.
Mott MacDonald believes it will be possible to ‘nurse’ the units through the winter.
Common to both plants
A procurement and funding mechanism must be quickly established by UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo). Spares, tools and services are urgently required.
Suitable communications are required. Chemical and fuel supplies must be consolidated before bad weather sets in. Protective equipment for workers in harsh environments must be provided quickly. A training and development programme is urgently required.
Maintenance and operation strategies have to be reviewed. A comprehensive management and planning system must be put in place to coordinate these activities.
Health and safety standards are inadequate. Staffing levels must be reviewed, but Mott MacDonald recommended leaving this review until after the winter to avoid distractions over this crucial period. Currently, the power sector employs over 9000 people. A balance must be struck between providing employment and income to a region desparately needing it and operating an efficient electricity company based on a Western model.
The Kosovo transmission system consists of 400 and 220 kV grids feeding a 110 kV ring, with interconnecting circuits to Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. Before the war, Kosovo was an exporter of power to these countries. All parties are keen for Kosovo to export power as soon as possible.
The transmission system has been in a very precarious condition. The current position is:
Facilities for controlling the power system are inadequate. No metering or other indications are relayed back to the despatch centre. This is compounded by the lack of reliable communications to all substations. Decisions on where to carry out load reductions are governed by what communications are available.
A System Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system was installed 4-5 years ago, monitoring 4 key substations. Staff are unable to access the system as it has been left immobilised by former Serbian employees.
Urgent remedial action is required to give the power system security over the coming winter. Several factors must be borne in mind:
There is only one interconnecting circuit to Albania. The busbars at Glogovac must be operational it to be effective, but they have been damaged. Although Albania is a net importer of energy, its hydro-based system complements the Kosovan thermal-based system.
There are 4 connections to Macedonia, but only one 110 kV link is in service, feeding a small (2 MWe) section of the Kosovo system. Macedonia wishes to restore the 400 kV and 220 kV links if there are sufficient connections to other utilities.
The Electric Company of Macedonia (ESM) has only 220 MWe of surplus capacity over demand. This includes 210 MWe of mothballed oil-fired generation, which ESM is reluctant to operate, due to the high cost of fuel. ESM will take power from Kosovo.
The Montenegro power system has a capacity of 840 MWe and peak demand of 615 MWe. In 1998, Montenegro was a net importer, and cannot reliably supply power for Kosovo.
There are 4 circuits to Serbia. Only the 110 kV and 220 kV connections are currently in service. The 220 kV circuit has had a number of trips, due to unknown problems in Serbia.
Role of the Armed Forces
In June, the departing Serbs shut down everything. The power plants and coal mines are in the British zone, and the British army had to get the plants operating. This was achieved by Royal Engineers and local people working together. The British Army has added power plant operation to its training for engineers. This is increasingly important with the growing number of peacekeeping deployments.
Mine clearance of transmission lines must be carried out in liaison with K-For and UNMIK (United Nation Mission in Kosovo). Mott MacDonald engineers indicate the priority areas that need to be cleared, and K-For and UNMIK allocate resources to clear these areas.
There is a balance to be struck between establishing a profitable system and getting through the winter. People need work and income now. It is not viable to press for an immediate solution to an overmanning problem.