CEOL - Serbs urged to conserve energy

BELGRADE, Dec 17, 1999 -- (Reuters) Serbia's power company urged consumers on Thursday to curb electricity consumption this winter to avoid power cuts and a collapse of the system.

"Due to higher than expected temperatures in October, November and early December, there was only a slight increase in electricity consumption," Stanisa Paunovic, president of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce Energy Department, told a meeting of industry representatives.

"We already experienced a 128 million kWh consumption in a single day when temperatures fell to zero degrees Celsius. But with temperatures falling to ten degrees below zero, the daily consumption would jump to 150 million kWh and EPS has no capacity to meet such a demand," Paunovic said.

The Chamber issued a report, based on the power company Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) own figures, showing the country would lack 410 GWh of electricity in December, 686 GWh in January, 360 GWh in February and 121 GWh in March next year.

"These quantities can be compensated, primarily through a more rational consumption and borrowing from neighboring power grids, if conditions are met and favorable agreements reached."

Serbia produced and consumed 27 billion kWh of electricity in January-November period this year. In the first 10 days of December, average daily electricity consumption stood at 119 million kWh, and only once peaked at 128 million kWh, said Aca Markovic, EPS manager in charge of electricity distribution.

Repairs After Nato Strikes

During March-to-June NATO's air war on Yugoslavia, nearly a third of the Serbian power grid was destroyed.

"The reconstruction of the power grid is proceeding slowly mainly due to a lack of finance. Some of the reconstruction work has been completed but not yet paid for," Paunovic said.

"At present, some quantities of electricity are imported but it is three times more expensive compared to home produced electrical power. EPS has no more reserves. We must issue this new appeal to the consumers to save electricity," he added.

EPS's Markovic said a favorable hydrology and higher water levels would translate into a higher production of electricity.

But he urged the Serbian oil and gas monopoly NIS to ensure sufficient supplies of fuel to secure uninterrupted production.

NIS, on its part, said it was facing serious problems after its two refineries had been heavily damaged during the bombing.

Djordje Petrovic of NIS said the production of crude oil and derivatives would not rehabilitate by the year end. Along with an international oil embargo, the destruction of the two refineries and years of disinvestment have affected domestic production of crude and derivatives.

Domestic sources were now providing less than 1 million tons of crude, compared to 1.25 million tons a year ago.

Crude processing fell by 69 percent compared to the same 11-month period last year, he said.

"In the post-aggression period, reconstruction of refineries cannot be faster than it is at the moment. Some primary processing has been restored, but the production of derivatives has not restarted yet," Petrovic said.

NIS also complained free imports of oil derivatives, largely ending on the black market, affected the company's finances.

Of 1.6 million tons of imported derivatives, 1.4 million tons ended on the black market, stealing handsome profits away from EPS, its representatives said.

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