North Macedonia to build one of world's tallest dams

North Macedonia to build one of world's tallest dams
Cebren hydropower plant (HPP) was first discussed back in the 1960s. /
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje September 21, 2023

A Greek concessionaire will independently undertake the construction of the 333 MW Cebren hydropower plant (HPP) in North Macedonia under a profit-sharing agreement, Minister of Environment Kaja Shukova told the media on September 21.

Cebren holds paramount importance for North Macedonia's energy transition and the wider region, given its potential to balance renewable energy sources. It will also play a crucial role in flood protection, water supply, agriculture, and more, with a dam towering at 192 metres, ranking among the tallest globally.

The government decision to give the concession to the Greek consortium, led by the state-owned Public Power Corporation (PPC) and including Greece’s Archirodon, paves the way for one of North Macedonia's most significant energy projects. 

The estimated investment value is approximately €1bn, earmarked for the construction of the reversible Cebren hydropower plant with a minimum capacity of 333 MW.

Following completion, the country will receive 33% of the investment, while the concessionaire will retain 67%. To offset the state's investment, the HPP Tikves will be granted to the Greek concessionaire.

On September 14, the government said it greenlit a concession for water usage in electricity production, entrusting the project to the Greek consortium. 

The selected bidder is obliged to finalise a joint venture agreement within three months, establishing a joint-stock company with North Macedonia’s state-run power producer ESM, in which ESM will hold a 33% share.

Once Cebren HPP is constructed, the state will allocate its share through the  Tikves HPP, integrating it into the Cebren hydroelectric power system, Shukova was cited by broadcaster Alfa.

Shukova said that the Greek company must first secure a water permit, as per the Water Law, before finalising the concession agreement. The company will bear the construction costs.

She clarified that the investor will hold a 67% stake, while the state will retain 33%. When dividends are distributed, the state will receive 33%, with the remaining 67% going to the investor. After 60 years, at the conclusion of the concession, the entire complex will become state-owned.

“What is important for us is that once the concession agreement is established, it will provide a crucial edge in supplying electricity for state needs at market rates. The future dynamics remain uncertain, but there is potential to extend these services to other consumers at market prices," stated Shukova.

Following the completion of design and documentation, construction is anticipated to span seven years.

The inception and design of the ambitious Cebren hydropower project date back to initial feasibility studies in the 1960s. According to the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, these studies commenced in 1964, culminating in contracts for investment-technical documentation in 1986.

Prior to the current call, thirteen unsuccessful tenders were made in the past two decades. The latest public call represents the fourteenth endeavor to grant a concession for the Crna Reka project.