Albanian Hydropower Plant Gets Much-Needed Repair Funding

Komani, the most important hydropower installation in Albania, has obtained funding for a much-needed programme of repairs, maintenance and upgrades. The plant is currently in a severe state of disrepair, having received no major maintenance effort since it was originally constructed three decades ago.
The dam is in one of the country’s more scenic settings, amongst the Puka region mountains. It is one of three hydro cascades making up a complex, and with an installed power of 600MW it is the largest of the group. Together, these supply 65% of the electricity used in Albania, but the Komani plant is in dire need of maintenance work in order to maintain its major role in generating the country’s electricity.
The funds for the Komani maintenance and upgrade scheme have come from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The work is much needed and, in the opinions of many, much overdue. The dam is in visibly poor repair, and observers can clearly see some of the problems with the naked eye. In particular, spill water has seriously corroded the lower section of the dam, and the external part of this is falling apart.
In 2010, exceptionally high levels of rainfall uncovered further problems with the dam. As Albania and the world at large are subject to ever greater extremes of weather, this has particularly highlighted the need to restore and strengthen the dam.
€12.7 million (£10 million) are being invested by the EBRD in the project, which is to carry a total price tag of around €70 million (£55 million). Other financial institutions, along with the Government of Albania, are also contributing funds to make up the total. The project is to draw on the results of a feasibility study, which received funding from the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). This study identified the urgent need to invest in modernising the dam and improving its standards. This program, the study recommended, should include maintenance operations, a better alarm and monitoring system, and general improvements to procedures at the site.
The Komani plant’s director, Astrit Beqiri, said that the works would include “completing the removal of debris at the toe and the construction of the serpentine road which will improve access to the dam.” In holding the directorship of the plant, Beqiri works for the state-owned Albanian Power Corporation (KESH), which is responsible for many of the country’s largest power generation facilities.
Work on the plant is expected to begin in March of next year. The first measures taken will be to introduce new measures to cope with rockfalls as well as simply cementing the dam. A timescale for the completion of the work has yet to be announced.