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How to enable a sustainable and resilient energy supply – interview with Jeton Mehmeti, KOSTT’s Chairman of the Board

According to the International Energy Agency, coal is Kosovo’s main energy source. However, renewable energy sources like wind and solar are gradually growing and, as reported by the Energy Community Secretariat, the country has registered a 24.40 per cent share of renewables in 2020, coming very close to reaching its 25 per cent target for 2020.

Ahead of the Energy Week Western Balkans, which will take place on 18-19 October 2023 in Montenegro, we spoke with Jeton Mehmeti, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of KOSTT, Kosovo’s electricity transmission system operator about the role of renewables in the country’s energy mix, the challenges to overcome for their integration into the grid and the role of regional cooperation.

Mr Mehmeti begins by highlighting that the National Energy Strategy is focused on investments in renewable energy sources and the renovation of current coal capacities, to enable the energy transition and align with international obligations and agreements. 

“The country aims to establish 1,600 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy capacity by 2031,” he points out. “Notably, significant investments (approximately 300 million euros) have been made in enhancing the transmission network.”

According to him, renewables will play a pivotal role in network development, with smaller (less than 10 MW) sources connecting to the distribution network, reducing transmission congestion and losses and larger sources that will be connected to the 110-kV network. 

“The Energy Strategy emphasises decarbonisation through renewables and efficiency, gradually replacing fossil fuels while ensuring supply stability,” he continues. “Overall, Kosovo’s energy landscape is evolving towards sustainability, with renewable sources and network enhancements driving the transition while maintaining energy security.”

Still, there are some challenges to overcome, among which Mr Mehmeti mentions those concerning the just transition.

“KOSTT, as a publicly owned company, prioritises resource optimisation, transmission system enhancement and shareholder value,” he says. “However, challenges persist, particularly concerning the just energy transition. The load curve’s unique patterns mirror our nation’s socio-economic history. Notably, the highest load peak occurred in January 2022 at 1429 MW.”

Currently, KOSTT faces hurdles aligned with the National Energy Strategy, especially on regional energy market integration and adherence to network codes and SAFA standards. 

“Other challenges encompass large-scale renewable energy integration, electric system balance, regional energy market entry, critical infrastructure modernisation and cybersecurity measures,” defines Jeton Mehmeti.

And there are still some barriers related to the integration of renewables in the transmission network.

“The primary barriers to renewable integration are predominantly technical, not administrative,” Mr Mehmeti underlines. “The Energy Regulatory Office has endorsed the Connection Charging Methodology, streamlining connection agreements with KOSTT. Yet, similar to the region, Kosovo contends with technical hurdles arising from unpredictable renewable generation, straining grid stability. Countermeasures involve enhancing grid infrastructure, including substantial investments in 170 MW (340 MWh) battery storage systems.”

He goes on by saying that Kosovo has made consistent efforts to modernise its electricity network through collaborations with partners like USAID, KfW and EBRD. In particular, KOSTT has undertaken significant investments in its transmission grid, incorporating digital technologies. 

“Key advancements include the integration of digital protection relays, battery-controlled units (BCUs) and intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) for digital voltage regulation that communicate through the IEC 61850 standard, ensuring efficient substation communication,” explains the Chairman of the Board of Directors. “[…] Despite these digital upgrades, certain elements such as power transformers, switches, splitters and measuring transformers still maintain conventional, analogical forms. To further enhance the digitalisation of Kosovo’s electricity network, continued investment in updating conventional energy equipment to digital alternatives is recommended.”

As often said about the Western Balkans region, cooperation with neighbouring countries is crucial and Mr Mehmeti mentions especially the collaboration with Albania, which holds a prominent position on Kosovo’s agenda and remains a focal point for KOSTT. 

“Notable advancements have been made to facilitate this endeavour, highlighted by the bilateral agreement executed between Kosovo and Albania’s regulatory bodies and transmission system operators to synchronise their electricity markets,” he says. “This progressive approach is complemented by the establishment of the Albanian Power Exchange (ALPEX) a joint stock company founded by Kosovan and Albanian TSOs, which serves as a pivotal mechanism in this cooperative framework.”

He clarifies that ALPEX’s proactive engagement extends to Kosovo, where its operational footprint has been extended to bolster market coupling efforts. In a recent development, ALPEX successfully initiated the day-ahead market for Albania’s bidding area. In parallel, the forthcoming third quarter anticipates the inauguration of the day-ahead market catering to Kosovo’s bidding area. 

“Further strategic strides encompass the imminent introduction of the intraday market in Albania in the second quarter of 2024, swiftly followed by a corresponding launch within Kosovo merely two months later,” Mr Mehmeti adds. “This strategic sequencing aligns with the overarching goal of orchestrating the simultaneous coupling of intraday markets between Kosovo and Albania. This trajectory aligns harmoniously with the ambitious Pan-European market aspirations, reflecting Kosovo’s commitment to fostering robust cross-border collaboration within the energy landscape.”

Finally, speaking about the short-term and long-term goals of KOSTT, Jeton Mehmeti says that KOSTT is focused on ensuring a reliable and efficient transmission network for electricity supply.

“Short-term goals involve immediate actions for network enhancement and integration due to the changing energy landscape,” he says. “These include strengthening interconnection capacities and integrating renewable energy sources like wind and solar. By 2027, approximately 170 MW battery storage will be installed to provide system balancing, secondary and tertiary regulation and peak shifting.”

Among long-term objects, he mentions the Ten-Year Transmission Development Plan which aims to increase network capacity, reliability and efficiency, ensuring quality electricity supply to customers. 

“It considers the gradual addition of 600 MW wind and 700 MW solar capacities by 2031, in line with RES expansion goals,” he concludes. “The plan relies on the N-1 security criteria, zonal load and generation forecasts, and ENTSO-E planning rules. KOSTT’s 400 kV and 220 kV transmission network, interconnected regionally, plays a pivotal role. Investments in this network have a broader impact beyond national borders, contributing to regional energy integration. Overall, KOSTT’s strategic approach balances short-term integration needs with long-term transmission network development, enabling a sustainable and resilient energy supply.”

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