Serbia: Hydro power plants, availability of electric power network connection

, News Serbia Energy

The problem of accessibility of electricity grid is linked to the problems of ownership and legal issues. The registration of easements for transmission lines corridors is identical to the problem of registration of easements for roads and pipelines corridors. The difference is, however, a consequence of the intrinsic properties of electrical network: connecting electricity producers to the network is not a procedure that can be carried out by activities of one party to the possible monitoring of other parties, but requires concerted and partly simultaneous activity of both parties.

The national electricity grid in Serbia, as well as in the former Yugoslavia, was completed in ’80s and since then the problem of its construction and stability has become an internal problem of executor of activities of transmission and distribution of electricity. Since the adoption of the Energy Law in 2005, national electric network as a whole, together with consumption gauges of end users, became the property of the activities performer, so Electro network of Serbia (EMS) (except for internal electrical networks, identified as such technically and by ownership, which functioned even before the Act). This changed the mechanism of financing the construction and further development of the national power grid, since this was no longer a public issue, at least not in the sense in which it had been until the end of its construction, but instead an issue of the company itself and of other executing energy activities. Hence it was scheduled for the owners of SHPP to independently finance the construction of facilities (high-, medium- and low-voltage transmission lines, depending on the SHPP capacity) that would lead electricity from the future SHPP to connection points of the national power grid.

The cost, depending on the location MHE and its capacity can be quite high and it raises the question of whether it is right that all the costs are borne by only investors? This question makes sense regardless of the privileged price of electricity that investors get, because the actual production of electricity socially significant.

However, the biggest practical problem is the point of connection to the national power grid. The most common case is that the nearest point of connection is marginal, end point of the national electricity grid, in which the transformers (medium) are and worn with a small number of outlets. Therefore, the replacement of the transformer has become a source of major problems in connecting to the national electric network. The rule that appeared in practice is that the local power companies use the emergence of investors who build SHPP to shift on them the cost of replacing transformers in connection points or to ask for investments in the rehabilitation of the existing transformer in order to join the new SHPP. (According to the claims of investors, such requests were regular even if such investment was not necessary) This is a particularly nasty type of dispute, since because of the monopoly of local distribution companies there aren’t many ways to resolve a dispute through negotiation, or to find a mediator.

This is not a structural problem, and it would be absurd to expect the government to make decisions on these issues, but it is equally absurd for the competent Ministry of Energy and Mining not to resolve this issue with by-laws that would establish certain principles and obligate EMS and local power companies to resolve the described situation in a way that would take into account the interests of investors, not only in terms of replacing the transformer, but if necessary, in terms of the construction of internal electrical network for connection to the national power grid.

In addition to the described problems of connecting to the national power grid, a set of problems of availability of electrical networks will get new factors when and if SHPP are built, in the course of their operation. It would therefore be logical for the interested parties, which are mainly EMS and EPS, to participate in the construction of SHPP by forming certain teams in the territory of distribution on which construction is planned, or at least a district in which there are sites for SHPP. These teams would keep track of issues of connecting to the national electrical grid, as well as other technical issues related to the functioning of SHPP such as maintaining the stability of the network. It is an activity that should be launched by the Ministry of Energy and Mining, as a sign of support to the project and potential investors and as a measure of the acceleration of the project implementation, precluding unnecessary disputes and reducing costs.