Microwaves across Europe are 6 minutes slow due to a Serbia-Kosovo grid dispute

Enlarge / Grumpy? Maybe it’s because you’re 6 minutes late to macaroni time. (credit: Getty Images)

In a press release on Tuesday, Europe’s electric transmission lobby said that ovens, microwaves, and radios across continental Europe could be running almost six minutes slow due to a power grid dispute between Serbia and neighboring Kosovo.

Power-connected clocks on appliances generally tell time by counting the rate of the electrical current, which in Europe is supposed to hold a constant frequency of 50Hz. If that frequency drops below 50Hz, connected appliance clocks will be slow, and if it rises above 50Hz, clocks will be fast. Since mid-January, clocks that are on the Continental Europe Power System, a synchronized area that reaches through 25 countries across the continent, have seen a deviation from grid-time based on an average frequency of 49.996 Hz.

What do grid disputes have to do with anything? Serbia and Kosovo are part of the Continental Europe Power System, and, per an agreement, Kosovo is required to balance electrical supply and demand on its grid, while Serbia is required to help Kosovo manage that balancing. But the agreement between Serbia and Kosovo appears to have fallen apart, and neither side is talking to the other. That has resulted in 113GWh of unmet demand from Kosovo, which, spread across the whole synchronized area, has led to a decline in frequency—not big enough to cause power outages (at measurements below 47.5 Hz and above 52.5 Hz, the grid and devices connected to it disconnect) but big enough to warp time.

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Microwaves across Europe are 6 minutes slow due to a Serbia-Kosovo grid dispute