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Oct 25, 2007 11:16 EEST
October 25 (SeeNews) - Albania’s Central Election Commission said it will decide on Friday on a request by the citizens of the Ionian town of Vlora to hold a referendum on a controversial energy project that locals say will hinder the development of the town as a major tourist destination.
The energy project, already underway, envisages the construction of a 97-megawatt combined cycle power plant, to be completed by May 2009. The new power plant is expected to alleviate Albania's chronic electricity shortages and help the country cut power imports.
Italian construction-to-services company Maire Engineering started the construction of the power plant in August. The project also envisages the development of a coastal oil and liquefied petroleum gas terminal by Italian company La Petrolifera Italo-Rumena (PIR), and the construction of a terminal at the end of the projected AMBO Trans-Balkan pipeline, to be built by the U.S.-based Albania-Macedonia-Bulgaria Oil Corporation (AMBO).
Most locals fear that the government-backed projects to turn Vlore into an energy hub will jeopardise the area's future as the main tourist destination on Albania's Ionian coast. Tourism is the main occupation of most Vlore citizens.
In the past year Albania was hit by one of its worst energy crises, with blackouts of up to 20 hours last winter and up to 15 hours in the summer, which also hampered tourism.
To meet rising electricity demand, even with blackouts, Albania imported during the second half of the current year some 1.5 million megawatt hours of electricity, estimated to cost 108.6 million euro ($154.87 million). Albania’s electricity consumption grows by 3.0% per year.
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