Political tensions have clocks across continental Europe losing minutes.
Political tensions have clocks across continental Europe losing minutes.

Europe’s clocks are six minutes behind

ANY European late to work this year has a pretty good excuse.

Electric clocks across continental Europe are falling behind thanks to rising political tensions between Serbia and Kosovo. The tension between the two eastern European countries has caused an unprecedented lag in the continent's electricity grid, that certain digital clocks rely on to keep the time.

The most commonly used timekeeping technology uses an electronic oscillator that is regulated by a quartz crystal. The crystal oscillator creates a signal with very precise frequency and the signal's cycles are counted to provide a numeric time display.

But certain digital clocks rely on a method known as power system's frequency.

Countries from Spain to Turkey and from Poland to the Netherlands are part of a large area in Europe linked together into an electricity grid that operates at a synchronised frequency. And that frequency regulates timekeeping in certain devices.

But an ongoing row between Serbia and Kosovo has been blamed for knocking the continent's power grid out of kilter, taking the clocks with it.

Serbia has refused to recognise Kosovo since it declared independence in 2008, and the dispute includes energy regulatory issues.

When Kosovo is unable to generate enough electricity, Serbia is legally obliged to step in and meet the demand to keep the European grid stable.

However, they haven't been playing ball, causing the power grid to deviate from its standard 50 Hz frequency. The deviation has been enough to cause electric clocks that keep time by the power system's frequency to fall behind by about six minutes since mid-January.

Household items like bedside clocks, microwave and oven clocks and central heating timers have been effected, but not computers or smartphones.

Or is it 9:48?
Or is it 9:48?

Claire Camus, a spokeswoman for the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, said authorities needed to find a political solution to the problem, not just a technical one.

"Since the European system is interconnected ... when there is an imbalance somewhere, the frequency slightly drops," she said

The Brussels-based organisation, known as ENTSO-E, said in a separate statement that "this average frequency deviation, that has never happened in any similar way in the Continental European power system, must cease".

ENTSO-E said it's working on a technical solution that could bring the system back to normal within "a few weeks," but urged European authorities and national governments to address the political problem at the heart of the issue.

"This is beyond the technical world," the organisation said.

The electric power transmission facility in the village of Obilic, Kosovo, which is at the heart of an unprecedented slowing of the frequency of the continent's electricity grid. Picture: Visar Kryeziu
The electric power transmission facility in the village of Obilic, Kosovo, which is at the heart of an unprecedented slowing of the frequency of the continent's electricity grid. Picture: Visar Kryeziu

European officials say surplus energy would need to be generated and fed into the system over time to prevent the clocks from losing time but ENTSO-E warned that "if no solution can be found at political level, a deviation risk could remain."

Serbia's power grid company EMS blamed the problem on Kosovo, claiming that in January and February the country "was uninterruptedly withdrawing, in an unauthorised manner, uncontracted electric energy from the Continental Europe synchronous area".

- With AP



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