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Think Big

While the 14 hour power cuts of last November are now a distant memory, the underlying problems with the power system remain. According to KESH, the state energy utility, domestic production met 97% of domestic demand in 1990, but only 47% last year. Not only has demand been increasing, but capacity has been falling. Ordinary people who suffer as a result, and so does the country as a whole. The IMF estimates that last year's power cuts knocked .5% off Albania's economic growth rate.

The Albanian government has an ambitious plan, not only to solve Albania's energy problems, but also to turn the country into an energy exporter. At the heart of the plan is the construction of a series of gas-fired power stations in the south of the country. The biggest of these is to be constructed in the Fier district and it is expected that it alone could generate enough power to meet all of Albania's needs.

Gas for the power stations will come from a re-gasification plant to be built in the same area. This plant will receive Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from tankers, converting it back into gas before pumping it to the power stations. This plant is designed to have a capacity of 10 billion cubic metres. Albania's requirement for its new power stations will be 2 billion cubic metres. The rest will be pumped into the European gas network via a pipeline to Italy. As a result, Albania should be able to meet its own domestic needs and to export energy - in the form of gas or -to its neighbours.

It's a huge project. The estimated cost is 1.9 billion dollars. Who is behind it? European and American investors are funding the project - including the US Import Export Bank. A Swiss based consortium, ASG Power SA, is responsible for construction. The main party in the consortium is the Swiss public utility AET, and SAIPEM - a subsidiary of ENI - and General Electric will be involved in design and construction.

Meanwhile the government is also constructing new power lines across the country, both within the country and between Albania and some of its neighbours; KESH, the public energy utility, is being privatised; and the government is in discussions with Russian energy company, Gazprom, about the possibility of linking Albania into the regional gas pipeline network. The aim of all of this is that Albania should be self-sufficient in power-generation from diversified sources by 2008-9.

Not everyone is happy though. Many of the people of the Fier district have a different ambition for their region. They want to see it develop as a tourist resort, taking advantage of the beautiful Adriatic coastline and the nearby ancient site of Apollonia. Re-gasification plants, power plants, and tankers are going to make the district something of a hard sell in the tourism market. If I lived there I probably would not like it either, but it seems like a better long term bet for economic prosperity and development in the region.


Anonymous said…
Minor correction; Fier doesn't have a coastline on the Ionian but the Adriatik sea. And it has never been know for its tourism, in fact there currently is a TEC in Fier.

traveller one said…
And... our power went off 3 times today... on a day when no one is using any form of heating or air conditioning... imagine what the summer is going to be like.
Anonymous said…
"....imagine what the summer is going to be like...."

I recommend long trips to Dajti :)
ITS said…
Trips to Dajti?

What if the power cuts off while in the "Teleferik". You would be hanging there for a long time. :D
Anonymous said…
Sorry, I'm not adventurous enough to try the teleferik :) The old 200D will work fine!
traveller one said…
I'm with Anonymous on this one... would rather take the chance going up the mountain in our car!

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Welcome to Our Man in Tirana. I moved to Tirana, capital of Albania, in October 2005 and left in October 2007. This blog is a mix of photographs, reports, links, impressions and, undoubtedly, prejudices relating to the city and the country.

Since I am no longer in Tirana I am no longer updating this blog. However, there are over 300 posts covering this two year period and I hope that they are still of some interest.

So if you are curious about Albania or if you are planning to visit I hope this blog will be of value.

Miss Globe 2007

On Saturday, we were at the Rogner meeting with an expat friend who was leaving Tirana. It was breakfast time, and as our friend was finishing his tea the breakfast room started to fill up with over-dressed (or under-dressed) young women wearing blue sashes. These were the contestants for the Miss Globe 2007 beauty pageant being held in Tirana tonight at the Palace of Congresses. High heel boots and mini-skirts - or in a couple of cases micro-skirts, or possibly just belts - have never struck me as obvious breakfast attire, but the girls seemed happy enough tottering and wobbling around with their tea and toast. I'm not sure why they were wearing their sashes - perhaps in case they forgot which country they came from.
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