Lighting from abroad. Romania becomes a large electricity importer due to output shortages

Sorin Melenciuc 13/05/2019 | 13:41

Romania has become in the first quarter of this year a net electricity importer as it relied on large imports to ensure the power needed by its businesses and households.

The official statistics body said that Romania imported 1,125.5 million kWh in January-March and exported only 862.6 million kWh and the electricity balance of the country was on the deficit.

Electricity export halved (-52.9 percent) in the first 3 months of this year while import rose by 78.5 percent.

This import reliance was due to a slump in power output, by 10.8 percent compared with January-March 2018, associated with a slight decline in consumption, by 1.6 percent, during the same period.

Romania was during a long period of time an electricity exporter into the region as its Communist regime-built power industry was large and diversified.

But a recent BR Analysis showed that the situation is about to change this year due to lack of investment, poor management and bad regulations.

Last year, Romania was still an electricity exporter but the amount of exports was much smaller than in the previous years.

But electricity export declined by 16.3 percent last year compared with 2017 following a decline of 24 percent in 2017 and a reduction of 18 percent in 2016.

Compared with 2015, Romania’s electricity export halved last year – and this worsened the country’s trade deficit.

This year the situation worsened because during last winter Romania had to import energy to cover the demand in the peak hours – and even at normal consumption.

In many days in January, one quarter of Romania’s electricity consumption was covered from import – a warrying situation for a country used to supply electricity to its neighbors.

Even in this calmer period, in some days a quarter of total electricity production is ensured by wind – a “green” but volatile source of power.

On average, around 10 percent of the consumption was covered by wind turbines during the last years, but the share increased this year due to lower production in other type of power facilities like coal-based power plants.

The total power of the local wind turbines is 3,029 MW but production in this type of power sources is very volatile in a country located far from planet’s oceans or prevailing winds.

In eastern Romania, close to the Black Sea coast – where most of the local wind turbines are installed -, wind is not constant – and this means that wind power could fall from peak to nothing in a couple of hours.

However, some experts say that doubling the production capacity of wind power could solve some of the problems Romania is now facing.

Despite its large power capacities in theory, Romania has challenges in ensuring power production as many coal power capacities built during the communist regime are outdated and need to be modernized.

Bust other types of power and electricity transport facilities in Romania also need large investment and maintenance works – and both were rare during the last few years.

The most stable and profitable energy producers in Romania, Hidroelectrica and Nucleaelectrica, are also hit this year by the emergency ordinance 114/2018 that impose a special tax of 2 percent on the turnover and capped the profit margin to 5 percent for the energy supplied to households.

Both companies need investments valued at billions of euros in order to ensure long-term electricity output.

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