Electric clocks are running slow all over Europe thanks to a Serbian-Kosovo power dispute
The ol’ ”my alarm didn’t wake me up in time” excuse may actually be a valid reason for millions of Europeans across the continent running late, as a power dispute between Kosovo and Serbia has meant that digital clocks are running up to six minutes slow.
According to the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO), the slowing of the frequency of Europe’s electrical grid has been happening since mid-January and disturbs the synchronised time of 25 European countries from the Netherlands to Poland and Spain to Turkey.
The power grid fracas has meant that any devices that keep time using the power grid frequency are now running slower than usual, affecting microwaves, ovens, bedside alarm clocks, radios and heating systems – anything using power from the energy supply. Luckily, the time on your phone, computer and quartz clocks remain unaffected.
Since January, the continental network has lost 113 gigawatt-hours of energy, deviating from the usual average of 50Hz. The measurement is based on the number of times that the energy grid voltage hits maximum value. It’s supposed to happen 50 times per second, but this deviation is causing the clocks to slow down. ENTSO says that if the deviation ever falls below 47.6Hz, devices would automatically disconnect from the power grid.
This slow-down is in large part due to Baltic politics in a dispute between Kosovo and Serbia over the operation of the power grid.
“This average frequency deviation – that has never happened in any similar way in the [Continental European] power system – must cease,” ENTSO wrote in a press statement. “The question of who will compensate for this loss has to be answered.”
Kosovo separated from Serbia in 2008, and in 2015 the two countries signed an agreement settling how the power grid will operate. This, however, has not come into effect, as the two sides haven’t been able to agree on the distribution of the power supply. Since the war for independence in the late-90s, the northern majority-Serbian provinces in Kosovo have refused to pay for their energy consumption. This has meant that the other citizens of Kosovo have had to pay extra. Kosovo decided to stop paying the shortfall back in December, but Serbia has refused to make up the difference.
“As there is also a political dimension with impact on the function of the electricity system, ENTSO-E is urging European and national governments and policymakers to take swift action.” ENTSO said. “These actions need to address the political side of this issue, supporting ENTSO-E’s and the TSOs actions to deliver a technical solution.”
While six minutes doesn’t seem like a lot, it’s adding up very quickly, with the clocks slowing by a whole extra minute between Saturday last week and today.
If you’re having issues, you can manually reset your clocks for the time being, and if a solution is found, just reset it back to the automatic time afterwards.
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