CYPRUS: Keeping the power switched on

8 mins read

Electricity interconnection between the two communities is a bridge builder after the two Cypriot leaders agreed that both sides of the divide are to be interconnected on a permanent basis without the need for agreements every time there is an emergency.

A development welcomed by electricity authorities on both sides of the ceasefire line.

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci announced after their meeting last month, that the Confidence Building Measure agreed in 2015 to interconnect the two electricity grids, has now been achieved, adding that they have decided to make the temporary electricity supply arrangement permanent and without restriction.

They also acknowledged that the transfer of electricity will continue on an as-needed basis. The grids were temporarily connected in August 2016 after an initial agreement the previous year.

The two grids are currently connected with two operational interconnecting cables, one from Mia Milia to Athalassa and one from the Morphou area to Orounta.

In comments made to Turkish Cypriot newspaper Yeniduzen, Kamil Direl, the head of the Turkish Cypriot electricity authority KIB-TEK said the agreement adopted in good faith to permanently interconnect the grids will provide serious benefits for both sides.

He said the grids were separated in 1996 only to be temporarily interconnected in times of need for a short period only to be separated again. As a confidence-building measure the grids were interconnected in August 2016 and have remained connected ever since.

Previously the grids were connected for a minimum period of 10 days to a maximum of five months after separate agreements were made for each instance.

Turkish Cypriot authorities were paying for electricity quantities of over 40 MWh, a balance sheet was kept between the two sides to be offset when the Greek Cypriots are in need of electricity.

“With the leaders’ decision to make the interconnection permanent, less time will be required in emergencies, while the grids will be working with an offset system,” said Direl.

He explained that in the case of a one- or two-day outage one side can draw electricity from the other, with quantities being recorded on a balance to be offset in the future.

“Only in the cases where one side will be in need of power for a long period of time will there be a need for a trade agreement to be signed,” said Direl. He noted that during the past few years power plants in the north have seen significant upgrades.

Direl said that in case of an outage in one of the power plants in one site, there are more plants with the capability to go online and meet the power shortage caused, minimizing power cuts.

“The largest power plant in our grid is a 60 MW steam power plant. In the past when this power plant went offline, consumers were faced with serious outages.”

He said that working interconnectedly could bring about serious savings in the balance sheets of the two grids as in the future operational costs could be reduced.

Echoing the same arguments, the Director of Operations and Personnel of the Cyprus Transmission System Operator, George Ashikalis, said that the reconnection of Cyprus’ grid back into one will have its benefits for both sides of the divide.

He told the Financial Mirror that the two grids become less fragile and vulnerable to outages while the grid become more stable and the quality of energy produced is enhanced. And the risk of a system collapsing is minimized.

Ashikalis said that Renewable Energy Sources will be used more productively.

“We encounter issues with our wind generators when there is too much wind, with the surplus of energy produced during that time being lost as we cannot save it. Now with the reconnection of the grid, we could supply that energy to the Turkish Cypriot community and offset it at a later stage.”

He said for the moment the two lines are being maintained at both ends and are sufficient for the current state of affairs. Both sides are ready to install more lines if a political agreement is reached and when there is a need for one.

Direl said there is also an interconnecting cable in Famagusta planned to come online sometime this year, provided that the authorities on both sides put in the maintenance work at both ends. The existence of the Famagusta interconnection was confirmed by the republic’s TSO, but he said, there is no plan for this line to come online in the near future.

Until 1996 the two grids were working as one. Until then the Turkish Cypriot Community had depended on the Cyprus Republic for electrical power. In 1996 the Turkish Cypriots established steam power plants which rendered the community self-sufficient in terms of energy.

Turkish Cypriots, until 1996, accumulated a €272.5 mln in debt since the first clashes took place in the 1960’s up until 2017.

There is a problematic situation in the mixed village of Pyla in Larnaca within the Republic Controlled Areas “where the Turkish Cypriot residents refuse to pay their bills, with a debt of €465,000 building up just in 2017”.

After the grids were separated in 1996, they were then reconnected on various occasions such as in 2006 when the Turkish Cypriot main power plant was in trouble with a total of 40 million KWh being transferred north.

According to figures provided by Turkish Cypriot authorities and confirmed by Cyprus Transmission System Operator, the flow was reversed in 2011 with the explosion at the military base in Mari which damaged the Republic’s main power plant at Vassiliko.

Since the establishment of the first reconnection in 2006 after the separation in 1996, some 254 million kWh of electric power have passed through interconnections set up between north and south of the island.

Since 2015 agreement to date have a seen a total of 46 million KWh exchanged.