Kosovo has signed a deal with U.S. power generator ContourGlobal for the construction of a 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant that aims to increase the Balkan country's energy security and reliability.
"This project will represent the largest foreign investment in Kosovo's history," said the U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, Greg Delawie, at the signing ceremony on December 20.
Kosovo's government said ContourGlobal would arrange financing and provide 30 percent of the total cost of building the "Kosova e Re" (New Kosovo) plant, worth about 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion).
Ownership of the unit will pass into its the government's hands after 20 years of operations "at no extra cost," it said.
The plant will replace the 55-year-old Kosovo A plant and cover nearly half of Kosovo's electricity demand, mainly for the capital, Pristina, and its surrounding areas, for the next 40 years, the company said.
Delawie said that the new plant will reduce reliance on aging power facilities that have caused regular power cuts in Kosovo.
Kosovo's current power plants are "old and less reliable than we all want," he said, adding that energy security had been a "huge obstacle" to economic growth in one of the poorest parts of Europe.
Studies have shown that Kosovo's unreliable electricity supply causes economic losses of 300 million euros each year, the U.S. Embassy said.
The Kosova e Re project, due for completion in 2023, "will be in line with World Bank studies showing coal to be the most affordable option for Kosovo," the embassy statement said.
The new plant will produce power using updated technologies that increase efficiency and reduce emissions. But environmental groups have opposed the project out of concern that coal plants produce more pollution than alternatives such as gas and wind power.