Thank you, Prime Minister and Minister Stavileci. It’s great to see so many participants from across Kosovo’s power sector, as well as from our international partners and colleagues, coming together to emphasize Kosovo’s need for a reliable source of power – a topic that has seized my interest since before my arrival here.
Energy security is an essential ingredient for future economic growth and the overall stability of Kosovo. Energy is something that touches the lives of all Kosovo’s citizens each day. When it works we almost forget it is there. It lights up and heats homes, and keeps businesses running smoothly, almost like magic. But as those of you in the business know there is no magic involved. Instead, it is sophisticated engineering, planning, and money.
The energy sector is a complicated puzzle that requires strong coordination among energy institutions. It needs appropriate regulation and policies.
Today’s forum is an opportunity to talk about the challenges facing the energy sector. But it is also a chance to talk about possible solutions to those challenges.
What do I mean by challenges? Since I am in a room with people who, like me, appreciate numbers, let me use a stark statistic to highlight my point. A recent USAID report showed that unreliable energy supply costs Kosovo’s businesses nearly 300 million Euros each year in lost productivity. These are resources that businesses could be using to expand production, increase sales, garner investment, and create new jobs.
At the same time, I remain concerned about the potential humanitarian impact should periodic maintenance challenges for Kosovo A and/or Kosovo B worsen. This winter has been mild, and the country’s energy needs have been met by the existing plants supplemented by imports as necessary. However, we cannot predict what will happen next month or next year.
For Kosovo to support its citizens, create jobs, attract foreign investors, and achieve its true potential, it needs a reliable, modern energy infrastructure.
I believe that Kosovo needs to modernize its energy production capabilities. We are pleased that progress has been made towards a new Kosovo C plant that would replace current units operating with unreliable and polluting technology from the 1960s and 1970s. Kosovo C would use the most modern technologies available to increase efficiency, improve reliability of supply, and decrease pollution.
At the same time, I am happy that we have seen progress in the diversification of energy sources. The recent creation of a one-stop shop for investments in renewable energy should help investors make their ideas a reality. Certainly in the U.S. we have found that the price of renewables continues to decline, and quantity has increased more than anyone expected a few years ago. This diversification strengthens the sector and improves the chances for more reliability.
Because regional market integration is a key component of an efficient and stable energy system, I am pleased to see representatives from the Government of Albania here today. As Kosovo nears completion of its side of the 400 kilovolt transmission line to Albania, you have the opportunity to work together on energy security and supply. Make today a turning point in the creation of a common energy market. Commit your efforts to finding ways to cooperate for the mutual benefit of the region.
Looking forward, financing the future private-sector-led modernization of Kosovo’s energy sector is paramount, whether it is the refurbishment of existing plants or developing new generation capacities. Many of you in this room are working on this issue, and I want to recognize your efforts to put in place the necessary foundations for Kosovo’s future energy needs.
Each of you contributes a piece of the puzzle toward Kosovo’s safe, secure, energy supply. Each of your pieces represents a potential growth opportunity, and plays a pivotal role in the overall economic prosperity and stability of Kosovo.
The U.S. government is very pleased to support Kosovo’s continued efforts to modernize the country’s electricity sector and open doors to new clean energy projects. Together, through our collective and continuous efforts, we can provide Kosovo with the secure energy it deserves.
Prime Minister, Minister Stavileci, I commend you for the efforts you have taken to date, and I thank you again for hosting this important gathering. You should be assured of our continuing support to Kosovo’s efforts in 2016 and throughout the next few critical years.