Albania Builds First Major Power Plant in Decades

Albania’s Prime Minister Sali Berisha inaugurated Ashta 1 on Friday, the country’s first major hydro-power plant since the early 1980s.“The Ashta power plant is a novelty because it is the largest one in the world to use advanced tubular turbines technology,” said Berisha during the inauguration ceremony.

“This power plant is also a masterpiece on a environmental level,” he added.

The hydro-power plant will use 45 matrix turbines, which allow for the efficient use of water.The project involves the construction and operation of two run-of-the-river plants, Ashta 1 and Ashta 2, with an installed capacity of 53 MW. The plants are predicted to generate 242GWh per year, supplying power for roughly 100,000 families.

For the next 15 years, 100 per cent of the electricity generated by Ashta will be collected by the Albanian Power Corporation, KESH, the state-run energy provider. After that, the term will either be extended, or the electricity sold on the open market.

Albania’s Energy Association, AEA, an umbrella group of investors in the energy market, says Albania is currently using only 40 per cent of its hydro potential for the production of electricity, underlining the potential for growth in the sector.

However, its aspiration to become the regional electricity powerhouse by building hundreds of new power plants are running into serious difficulties amid allegations of corruption and murky bidding procedures.

An investigation by Balkan Insight in February found that tendering procedures run by Albania’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Energy to build hydro-power stations have been riddled with problems and complaints by businesses that participated in them.

Out of the 110 or so contracts that have been put out to tender since 2006 to build more than 300 power plants in the country’s river system, dozens have been characterized by unclear bidding procedures and claims of apparent favoritism towards companies that did not meet the required standards.

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