Electricity and Heating in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:

Executive Summary of Predicted Winter Shortages and Recommended Humanitarian Measures

14 September 1999


  1. OCHA’s Assessment Procedure

    • When the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reestablished its permanent presence in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in July 1999, a priority task was to evaluate immediate humanitarian assistance needs and areas of concern for the coming winter throughout FRY except for Kosovo. To establish baseline information on one of the most urgent determinants of humanitarian risk, OCHA Belgrade contracted with local and international energy experts for analysis of the electricity and heating situation for the winter of 1999-200.

    • On 30 August 1999, OCHA Belgrade produced an initial report on the winter energy situation in FRY, entitled "Electricity and Heating in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: An initial assessment of the coming winter". This report was based on the work of local energy consultants and OCHA personnel in Belgrade.

    • At the invitation of OCHA Belgrade, between 29 August and 3 September, Mr Dieter Eger, Principal Engineer, Colenco Power Engineering Ltd, Geneva, conducted an assessment and verification mission in the FRY. Mr Eger is widely experienced in power systems throughout the world, including in the Balkans.

    • Mr Eger’s report, entitled "Electricity and Heating in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Assessment of energy needs for the coming winter", will be released this week. This report confirms the substance of OCHA’s initial assessment and proposes a range of emergency short term remedial measures in order to reduce the likelihood of random, massive stoppages and severe energy shortages in FRY this winter.

    • The current document is a short statement of the final conclusions of OCHA. Full technical details will be available in Mr Eger’s report. OCHA’s initial assessment report is available on request, although its primary conclusions are reflected in this summary and Mr Eger’s report.

    • OCHA Belgrade is currently reviewing priorities for UN winterization programmes, including formulation of proposals for presentation to donors.


  3. Predicted Energy Shortages

    • FRY faces electricity shortages of at least 30% below winter requirements for the 1999-2000 winter, and these may increase to 40-50% as the winter progresses. Although demand will drop, principally due to a decline in industrial production, supply will drop much further due to a range of factors.

    • The number of electricity outages in 1999 is expected to be in the vicinity of 1400, with the number and duration increasing and being concentrated in the winter and possibly at times extending over a number of days.

    • There is also a prospect of severe shortages of gas and oil, though international negotiations on the matter are ongoing between authorities in FRY and Russia and Hungary.


  5. Causes Of Energy Shortages

    • Energy shortages are the result of problems at all levels of the energy system in FRY, which are themselves a consequence of a range of long and short term factors. These include bomb damage, financial shortages, lack of maintenance, and absence of essential imports.

    • There are severe shortages of resources, in terms of natural gas and oil, coal, and water. Coal shortages are particularly serious. Sixty-nine percent of electricity production is generated by thermal power plants; 70% of this power relies on coal from the Kolubara mine. Production from this mine has dropped to 60-70% of requirements, and is likely to fall still further. The other coal mine, at Kostalac, faces similar or even worse problems. Coal shortages alone threaten some 25% of total energy requirements. Domestic oil refineries, storage, and distribution facilities were heavily bombed, meaning that FRY is almost entirely dependent upon imports, and therefore subject to sanctions.

    • There are significant problems in power generation in both hydro and thermal power plants. Water reservoirs in hydro power plants are at 1/3 of required levels, significantly reducing the potential to produce peak power and threatening system stability. In addition to coal shortages, thermal power plants face diesel shortages which threaten to reduce or even stop production.

    • All plants, as well as all coal mines and oil refineries, have old equipment, suffer from poor maintenance, and lack essential spare parts.

    • There are severe problems in transmission. Many transformers were damaged or destroyed during the bombing. Transmission capacity will be at best 70-80% of capacity. Due to overload on the parts of the system that remain, the network operates without reserves on capacity and is highly unstable and susceptible to frequent and unpredictable failures.

    • There are shortages of imported electricity. This is a consequence of damage to transformer stations, the current embargo, financial problems, and shortages in surrounding countries.


  7. Humanitarian Implications

    • The gravest humanitarian concern is the prospect of random, massive stoppages of electricity, particularly during the coldest times of the winter when demand for electricity is highest and reliable supply most essential.

    • The consequences of such stoppages are expected to be dire. Most serious is severe shortages in residential heating. Temperatures in the winter can reach below -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). Fifty-two percent of households rely on electricity for direct heating, and many of these have no alternative heating sources, no chimneys, and are poorly insulated (40-100% below German standards). A further 22% of homes rely on district heating. These systems rely on electricity to pump heated water to consumers.

    • Other serious humanitarian implications of the projected energy shortages include:

    • a lack of running water (81% of households and most institutions are connected to the public water supply system, which relies on electricity);

    • a lack of power to run vital equipment in hospitals and institutions (generators are often only able to provide lighting);

    • a lack of capacity to freeze food (which promises to endanger winter food supply – even poor families traditionally outlay significant sums in autumn to stock food in large freezers for winter; in the event of prolonged power failures, families will find it extremely difficult to replace large quantities of spoiled food)

    • There is a worse scenario. Should gas not flow from Russia through Hungary, this would directly deprive 25% of households of heating but would also likely lead to the electricity system being overwhelmed as consumers switch to electricity.

    • The overall impact of such shortages is expected to be increased morbidity and mortality, particularly in urban areas. The most vulnerable will be the elderly, the very young, the sick, and the urban poor.


  9. Recommended Humanitarian Strategy

    1. Key principles

      • The prospects of massive electricity outages and/or severe energy shortfalls are humanitarian concerns. The authorities in FRY must place remedial action high on their list of current priorities. The international community should consider interpreting humanitarian exemptions to sanctions regimes to allow assistance to address energy shortages.

      • Rigorous control mechanisms are essential to ensure that international assistance is properly channeled only to vulnerable populations most in need.

      • Many essential remedies are beyond the direct capacity of the UN system. Local authorities will have to take serious measures, and donor states will have to provide assistance. Should this not occur, the UN’s role will become one of sheltering the vulnerable population in the midst of a winter energy crisis.

      • Prevention of power outages is the highest priority, meaning that measures to stabilise the electricity network are most important. At the same time, attention should be paid to alternative sources of energy which might be made available to the population.

      • Measures should be simple and harmonize with the existing capacities of FRY technicians to improvise and the existing attributes of the FRY energy system. Solutions requiring lengthy or elaborate decision-making or technical processes should be avoided.

      • Measures should be preferred which have a good cost/benefit ratio.

      • Proposed measures are largely independent of each other, so that difficulties in implementing one remedy should not hold up implementation of other remedies.


    3. High priority areas to be addressed by local and federal authorities

      • Urgent maintenance and repairs should be continued and given greater support.

      • Delivery of whatever available diesel and heavy oil (mazut) must be prioritized to try to ensure coal mines and power plants do not come to a halt due to diesel and heavy oil shortages.

      • All available machinery should be deployed to assist coal production, including, if feasible, transferal of appropriate equipment from copper mines to coal mines.

      • Public warming shelters, which could be in a range of different kinds of public buildings, should be identified and equipped with separate heating boilers that might be prioritized for electricity supply and/or equipped with appropriate generators to provide warmth and warm meals to persons affected by heating interruptions.

      • Priorities must be set for distribution of limited electricity supply. The target list might include:

      • hospitals;
      • water supply systems;
      • social institutions where people live;
      • collective centres for refugees and internally displaced persons;
      • district and central heating systems;
      • public lighting;
      • public warming shelters;
      • schools, kindergartens and other institutions where people spend significant time;
      • food production and storage facilities;
      • the electricity production system (power plants and coal mines)
      • Immediate energy conservation measures must be adopted, driven principally by alteration in current electricity tariff structures and a public information campaign. In implementing tariff changes, measures should be aimed at reducing over-consumption of electricity, rather than depriving people of basic energy needs.


    5. High priority areas for international humanitarian assistance


    • Immediate, short term intervention, particularly in support of current winterization efforts, both of a commercial nature and by UN agencies and NGOs, should be consolidated and expanded, focussing particularly on:

    • generators (with diesel) for sensitive social institutions (OCHA will review available lists of the most sensitive institutions to identify those most in need);

    • alternative fuel sources, particularly LPG, briquettes, wood and coal;

    • equipment to utilise fuel sources, particularly gas cylinders, LPG heaters, and wood stoves.

    • However, these measures will be insufficient given the seriousness of the situation. The most important humanitarian measure is to make immediately available essential transmission spare parts. This assistance would be aimed at increasing the capacity of the transmission network and introducing some element of system stability, thus reducing the prospect of random, massive stoppages and the consequent humanitarian implications elaborated above. The most essential transmission equipment needed is as follows:

    • transformers – distribution transformers are the weak point of the transmission system;

    • circuit breakers;
    • disconnect switches;
    • current transformers and voltage transformers;
    • surge arrestors;
    • glass insulators.

    This equipment need not in all cases be new. Second hand equipment and equipment on loan may be very useful, particularly since much of FRY’s existing equipment is old.

    • Of almost equal importance is to make available spare parts for power plants, coal mines and refineries.

    • In addition, raw materials and intermediate products should be provided to allow local manufacture of spare parts. Typical examples include:
    • rubber for conveyor belts;
    • metal profiles;
    • wires;
    • chemicals.
    • Diesel oil for coal mines and diesel and heavy oil (mazut) for power plants needs to be provided, since even with prioritization within FRY there are likely to be shortages. Without small quantities of diesel oil, coal production will cease. This is a relatively small measure which would have enormous positive effects. Likewise, thermal power plants need heavy oil (mazut), and in one case diesel, to burn low grade coal. Measures to verify proper use of such fuels are feasible.

    • Electricity importation should be allowed to enable domestic supply to be supplemented. This will require financial assistance, as well as clarification of sanctions.

    • The ongoing negotiations between FRY and Russia and Hungary on gas and oil supply should be closely monitored, and supported where appropriate. It is essential that these negotiations succeed.