October 24, 2017, was a historic day for the partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Energy Association (USEA). After 16 years, and as planned, the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI) Transmission System Planning Project was brought to completion and turned over the region’s transmission system management to the European Network of Transmission System Operators of Electricity (ENTSO-E).
Borne from the ashes of the Balkans War, SECI was a multinational effort among national transmission utilities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, managed and funded by USAID and USEA.
Under SECI, the nine countries developed an electricity network planning model enabling utilities, policymakers and regulatory authorities to efficiently plan for various power sector development scenarios. The models or scenarios reveal how renewable energy generation can safely and reliably be added to the regional grid, the effect energy efficiency will have on electricity trade, and the potential to establish new connections with European wholesale electricity markets.
With the provision of advanced network planning software and extensive training supported by USAID and USEA, SECI has endowed Southeast Europe with a sustainable, regional network planning capacity. The SECI models are deemed to be the most comprehensive and authoritative in Europe. Their use in network planning studies is estimated to have already leveraged more than US$1 billion in new electric power generation and transmission investment in Southeast Europe, with several billion dollars of potential projects queued or under consideration.
The models produced by SECI serve a far greater purpose than simply serving as a basis for network analyses. Equipped with a common planning platform developed in an open, transparent and cooperative manner, the participants of the SECI project possess a common “electrical” language in which they converse. They are free to explore the benefits of regional cooperation that will bring greater efficiency to electricity trade and improved power quality to electricity consumers throughout the Balkans.
ENTSO-E is responsible for ensuring electric reliability and fostering competitive wholesale electricity markets from Lisbon to the borders of Poland. While it already bears a mantle of great responsibility and authority, its adoption of the SECI Working Group portends greater integration of Southeast Europe with the European grid and electricity markets.
SECI Gives Rebirth to a Grid and a Region
The Balkans War damaged a critical interconnection on the regional electricity network, which created a bifurcated Southeast Europe regional electricity grid that reduced cross-border electricity trade, jeopardized system reliability and limited opportunities for integration with the rest of the European grid. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Energy Association (USEA) coordinated a response to repair and redevelop the grid. They worked with the national transmission system operators (TSOs) in Southeast Europe to create the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI) Working Group, which pledged to share system data and develop a common regional network planning model. USAID and USEA provided each SECI Working Group member with a license, training and technical support for the PTI Power System Simulator for Engineers (PSS®E) planning software. In 2001, the SECI Working Group developed national network forecasting models, which were later integrated to establish Southeast Europe’s first regional planning model. The regional model was distributed to each of the SECI members, who suddenly had a common platform for analyzing the expansion of the Balkans’ electricity grid. The most current SECI model simulates the regional network to 2030. The SECI Working Group estimates that the TSOs use of the SECI models has leveraged and accelerated $10 billion to $15 billion worth of capital investment in new generation and transmission facilities.