North Macedonia: Electricity imports in 2020

, SEE Energy News

North Macedonia’s net electricity imports last year covered 31.38 % of domestic consumption, according to data published by the Regulatory Energy Commission (RKE). In comparison, imports covered 24.39 % of consumption in 2019 and 26.02 % in 2018. The country’s electricity imports needed to cover domestic consumption amounted to 2,341 GWh in 2020, which is significantly more compared to 2019 – 1,825 GWh and to 2018 – 1,923 GWh. On the other hand, electricity exports increased from 586 GWh to 639 GWh in 2020, which is 60 % more than in 2018 – 376 GWh.

Issues with the lack of water in accumulations, but also the partial blockade of the production capacities of thermal power plants, caused the decline in electricity production last year. This is the largest decline in electricity production in North Macedonia in the last ten years, and it mostly affected state-owned power utility ESM, which recorded a 44 % drop in production in the previous decade, from 6,476 GWh in 2010 to 3,643 GWh in 2020.

The reasons for the downward trend in production in thermal power plants are numerous shortcomings and interruptions in the operation of TPP Bitola, reduction of excavated quantities and quality of coal, approaching the end of the operational life of thermal power plants and inadequate investments, with reduced efficiency. In 2020, AD ESM also faced a flood in the mines which supply coal to TPP Bitola, which led to a prolonged interruption of production. TPP Oslomej has not been used much in recent years, primarily because the entire coal reserves in the vicinity of the plant have been exhausted.

Domestic electricity production amounted to only 5,128 GWh, which is 9.38 % less than in 2019. On the other hand, the production of electricity from renewable energy sources, including large hydropower plants, amounts to 1,499 GWh and increased by 9.5 % compared to 2019. Thermal power plants recorded a drop in production by 15.4 %, to 3,629 GWh. Coal-fired thermal power plants in 2020 produced 2,506 GWh, 2 4% less than in 2019, and 4 % less than in 2018. Gross consumption in the country remained almost unchanged. The production of electricity from renewable energy sources had a share of 29.22 % in the total supply, which is an increase of 21 % and RKE evaluates this as a positive signal.

RKE concludes that only state support for investments in large hydropower or gas-fired power plants can ensure the long-term stability of the system.