Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Kosovo To Select Bidder For New Power Plant In Early 2007

PRISTINA, Serbia (AP)--Kosovo's authorities will select a bidder to build a new power plant in early 2007 in the impoverished province, which frequently battles energy problems, the energy minister said Wednesday.

Ethem Ceku, who runs Kosovo's Ministry for Energy and Minerals, said the project to build Kosovo C, with a capacity of producing 1800 to 2100 megawatts of electricity, will be the largest investment that the province has seen since it came under U.N. rule in mid-1999.

Kosovo, a province of 2 million with an unemployment rate estimated at 50%, has been gripped by frequent power shortages, which have made it dependent on expensive imports for years, an anomaly for a territory with billions of tons of coal reserves.

The province has two thermal power plants -Kosovo A and B -both old and dilapidated, just outside the capital Pristina, prone to breakdowns that cause regular power cuts, despite large investments. It also sits at the center of a region with a growing energy demand in Europe.

The authorities will call on potential investors in mid-July to make proposals on how they think that Kosovo's short and mid term energy problems can be solved, said Joachim Ruecker, the U.N. official in charge of the economy sector.

That will be followed by opening a bid procedure later in the year, which will be completed with choosing a partner, Ruecker said.

The building of the new plant, as well as the rehabilitation of an old plant and the opening of a new lignite mine, should be completed by 2012, and will cost about EUR3 billion, Ceku said.

"We will be able to turn Kosovo from a place where its citizens, schools and hospitals face energy restrictions, in a place of stability," Ceku said.

He said companies from U.S., Germany, Italy, France, Russia and Turkey have shown interest in the province's energy sector.

Kosovo, formally a province of Serbia, has been administered by the U.N. since mid-1999. Talks to determine whether the province will become independent or remain with Serbia are underway.

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