Soaring international energy prices have brought power blackouts to Europe as Kosovo said it could no longer afford to import electricity, adding to fears that tensions with Russia will plunge the continent into crisis this winter.
Consumers in the Balkan state have been told they will be allowed six hours of power at a time, punctuated by two-hour breaks, according to a spokesperson for its energy distribution company, KEDS.
The energy rationing, which has no scheduled end date and was announced on Monday, is a response to high wholesale market prices, which mean Kosovo cannot afford to import electricity.
Its domestic generation capacity, almost all of which comes from heavily-polluting coal-fired power stations, is only enough to meet around two-thirds of demand.
While Kosovo is one of Europe’s smallest and poorest countries, the move to impose scheduled outages will add to fears that other European nations could be forced to follow suit. Sky-high prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have sent European leaders scrambling to agree a multi-lateral plan to reduce gas usage, potentially including the use of rationing.
As winter approaches, and with little sign of peace on the horizon, wholesale energy prices have soared, with UK consumers warned to expect average home energy bills of more than £4,000 this winter.
However, the situation in Kosovo is particularly acute because about half of the country’s generators are shut for regular pre-winter maintenance.
Kosovo’s parliament declared a state of emergency early this month, giving it the ability to introduce drastic measures including blackouts to cope with the energy crisis. Similar power cuts were introduced in December, when consumption rose to record levels as temperatures dropped below freezing.
Earlier this month, Kosovo’s parliament declared a 60-day state of emergency to give the government the power to take steps to cope with the crisis, including power cuts.
The power crunch comes against the backdrop of growing tension with neighbouring Serbia over a controversial new order asking Kosovo’s Serb minority to transition to Kosovan licence plates.
Pristina declared independence from Belgrade in 2008 after a prolonged and complicated series of military conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, but Serbia still considers Kosovo to be part of its territory.