European Clocks Lose Six Minutes after Dispute Saps Power from Electricity Grid
Europeans who have been arriving late to work or school in recent weeks have more than just the bad weather to blame. The real reason is an unprecedented lag in the continent’s electricity grid that is causing some clocks to run too slowly.
The problem is caused by a political dispute between Serbia and Kosovo that is sapping a small amount of energy from the local grid, causing a domino effect across Europe’s 25-nation synchronized high voltage power network spanning the continent from Portugal to Poland and Greece to Germany.
The European power grid lobby group urged the two Balkan countries to resolve the dispute.
“Since the European system is interconnected ... when there is an imbalance somewhere the frequency slightly drops,” said Claire Camus, a spokeswoman for the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E).
The continental network had lost 113GWh of energy since mid-January because Kosovo had been using more electricity than it generates. Serbia, which is responsible for balancing Kosovo’s grid, had failed to do so, ENTSO-E said.
The Brussels-based organisation added that “this average frequency deviation, that has never happened in any similar way in the Continental European power system, must cease”.
The deviation from Europe’s standard 50Hz frequency has been enough to cause electric clocks that keep time by the power system’s frequency, rather than built-in quartz crystals, to fall behind by about six minutes since mid-January.
The problem mostly affects radio alarms, oven clocks or clocks used to program heating systems.
ENTSO-E said it was working on a technical solution that could bring the system back to normal within “a few weeks”, but urged European authorities and national governments to address the political problem at the heart of the issue.
“This is beyond the technical world. Now there needs to be an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo about this lack of energy in the Kosovo system. You need to solve it politically and then technically,” Camus said.
The friction between Serbia and Kosovo is part of a broader dispute that goes back almost 20 years. Since the war in Kosovo ended in 1999, the Serb-dominated north of Kosovo that remains loyal to Belgrade has not paid the Kosovo government for the energy it consumes.
A 2015 agreement was meant to resolve the dispute, but Serbia has blocked its implementation.
Serbia’s power operator, EMS, blamed the problem on Kosovo, claiming that in January and February the country “was withdrawing, in an unauthorized manner, uncontracted electric energy from the continental Europe synchronous area”.
Kadri Kadriu, deputy manager of Kosovo’s grid operator, acknowledged that electricity from elsewhere was diverted to the Serb minority in the north, but said consumers there had not paid for their electricity, causing considerable financial burden to the company.
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