From: Alice Taylor
Valbona HPPs Sell Energy to State Despite Court Order to Stop Operations

Two hydropower plants, operated by Gener2, that were ordered by the High Court to stop operating pending the outcome of another court case, have reportedly defied the order and are selling electricity to the state energy company.

The two plants, located on the Valbona River have been subject to a years-long legal battle with local residents who claim their construction is illegal and fraught with corruption. In July, Albania’s highest court ruled that the two plants must cease operation pending the outcome of an administrative court case to determine if their construction was legal.

While there were issues in initially getting a bailiff to execute the decision, finally, in the autumn, operations stopped.

Exit then reported that the plants were once again operational, defying the High Court order and therefore in violation of the law and open to criminal prosecution.

TOKA, the organisation that won the high court decision to suspend works and operations of two hydropower plants run by Dragobia Energy/Genr2 in Valbona, in December received notification that the bailiff has annulled the requirement for them to cease.

In a letter dated 12 November, Kukes bailiff Satbere Shahu, drafted in after Tropoje bailiff Eduart Mrishaj allegedly refused to execute the court decision, states that as the HPPs have complied with the court decision, there is no further need to enforce the High Court decision.

The decision taken by the High Court in July 2021 states that all licenses and permits of the HPP projects are suspended, meaning any operation of the plants is illegal, pending the outcome of an administrative court case filed by TOKA and 27 residents. They are challenging the validity of the concessions contract, and the court cases are ongoing. Therefore, the validity of the decision by the High Court remains in force for the foreseeable future.

But it seems that not only are they operational, but they are selling the energy to OSHEE.

According to data obtained by BIRN, in December alone, five months after they were prohibited from working, the two HPPs sold 5,648 MWh of electricity to a company that is part of OSHEE.

When asked by BIRN, OSHEE claimed they did not know the High Court had ordered the company to stop, despite it being published widely in the media. The Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure said it was the responsibility of the Tropoja Bailif’s Office to inform institutions.

Tropoja bailiff  Mrishaj said that the plaintiffs, including TOKA Director Catherine Bohne, had not filed an official complaint with his office.

A spokesperson for Gener2 told BIRN that the water passing through the plants was not generating electricity and therefore they were complying with the rules. They did not explain how they were managing to sell electricity to OSHEE if the plants were not generating electricity.

Gener2 is involved in a number of significant development projects in Albania including luxury apartments in prime positions. It also owned A2, an Albanian news channel that partners with international channel CNN.