In a press release on Tuesday, the European electrical transmission lobby said ovens, microwaves and radios in continental Europe could run slow for nearly six minutes due to a dispute over the electricity grid between Serbia and neighboring Kosovo.
Power-connected clocks on appliances generally tell the time by counting the speed of the electrical current, which in Europe should have a constant frequency of 50 Hz. If that frequency falls below 50 Hz, the clocks of connected devices will be slow, and if it goes above 50 Hz, the clocks will be fast. Since mid-January, clocks located on the Continental Europe Power System, a synchronized region that spans 25 countries across the continent, have seen a drift from grid time based on an average frequency of 49.996 Hz.
What do network disputes have to do with it? Serbia and Kosovo are part of Continental Europe’s electricity system, and under an agreement Kosovo is required to balance supply and demand of electricity on its grid, while Serbia is to help Kosovo manage that balance. But the Serbia-Kosovo agreement seems to be falling apart and neither side is talking to the other. This has resulted in 113 GWh of unmet demand from Kosovo, which, spread across the whole synchronized area, has led to a decrease in frequency – not large enough to cause power outages (when readings below 47.5 Hz and above 52.5 Hz). Hz, the mains and devices connected to the disconnect) but large enough to distort the time.
Well not really. But relying on a quartz clock or one connected to the internet is a better bet at this point.
“This average frequency drift, which has never happened in a comparable way in the CE Power system, must stop,” wrote the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (or ENTSO-E). As for the 113 GWh of energy that was never added to the system, the group stated that “the question must be answered as to who will compensate for this loss”.
ENTSO-E said it would work with affected regions to try to resolve technical issues, but the political issues underlying the problem need to be addressed by policymakers. “ENTSO-E urges European and national governments and policy makers to take swift action. These actions should address the political side of this issue and support the actions of ENTSO-E and TSOs to provide a technical solution. “
For now, ENTSO-E says the anomaly risk remains until the dispute is resolved. Clock owners can now reset them, but they will need a second reset once the Continental Europe Power System resolves the issue. The group says the clocks will all return to normal once the issue is resolved.
“The first step is to stop the anomaly,” ENTSO-E wrote. “The second step is to make up for the missing amount of energy. The plan is to fix Step 1 this week, while the timeline for Step 2 has yet to be determined. Getting the system back to normal could take a few weeks.”