Reuters: The mystery of how the Balkans plunged into an energy blackout

2024-06-21 22:21:37Aktualitet SHKRUAR NGA REDAKSIA VOX

Reuters news agency has paid attention to the major power outage that this Friday hit Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania and most of the Croatian coast. Power outages hit businesses, shut down traffic lights and left people sweltering without air conditioning in the middle of a heat wave.

Montenegro's energy minister said the blockade was caused by a sudden increase in energy consumption, caused by high temperatures and the heat itself. Electricity distribution systems are interconnected throughout the Balkans for transfers and trade between them.

"It was just waiting for this heat to happen," Gentiana, a 24-year-old student in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, told Reuters. The power grids and Wi-Fi were switched off around 13:00, officials and social media users said. Operators said they had started restoring power by mid-afternoon.

Traffic came to a standstill in Bosnia's capital Sarajevo and the cities of Banja Luka and Mostar, Reuters reporters said, as temperatures reached 40 degrees Celsius in this part of the region. Many lost water in Podgorica after the pumps stopped working. Air conditioners shut off and ice cream melted in tourist shops. There were also traffic jams in the Croatian coastal city of Split. Ambulance sirens rang out across town.

"The failure occurred as a result of a heavy load on the network, a sudden increase in energy consumption due to the high temperature and the high temperatures themselves," Montenegrin Energy Minister Sasha Mujovic said in a televised broadcast. Experts are still trying to identify where the malfunction originated, he added.

Montenegro's Vijesti TV said a fire had been spotted on a 400 KW transmission line in a rugged area along the border with Bosnia, although it was not immediately clear whether this could have been the cause of the outages or somehow related to them. VIjesti cited unnamed sources from electricity transmission company CGES, which said it needed helicopters to enter the country.

Albanian Energy Minister Belinda Balluku said there had been a breakdown in a link between Albania and Greece and he had heard of similar circumstances in Montenegro and parts of Croatia and Bosnia.

A full investigation would take time, but early analysis suggested that "the large volumes of power in the transmission system at the moment and very high temperatures at record levels have created this technical problem," Balluku added in a video.

Power in Albania was restored within half an hour, but the country remained at a high risk of further blackouts as energy use and heat levels are still high.

Croatia's state news agency HINA cited unnamed sources as saying the fault had started in Montenegro. Western Balkan countries have seen a boom in solar energy investment, which could help ease coal power crises. But the infrastructure is not prepared for new energy supplies, said the president of the Energy Regulatory Commission of North Macedonia.