The Bulgaria World Energy Council Committee is an independent, non-governmental and non-profit organisation formed of individuals and legal entities. It was founded in 2002, according to WEC’s practice of representing the member states through their national organisations. The activities of the Bulgarian National World Energy Council Committee include research studies and discussions on energy issues, analysis of topical energy problems and proposal of solutions to overcome them, development of strategic recommendations, organising conferences, seminars and meetings for a wide exchange of views, publications, participation in research and working groups of the World Energy Council, and cooperation with other organisations.
Energy in Bulgaria
Geopolitics is perceived as the biggest critical uncertainty for the Bulgarian energy sector. The country is highly dependent on petroleum, natural gas, and nuclear fuel imports, resulting in a 36.5% energy-import dependence (National Statistical Institute, 2020). Additionally, in relation to the ambitious EU decarbonisation targets; in the next decade, Bulgaria will face the challenge of significantly restructuring its energy sector, including phasing-out its main power generation source – lignite-fired TPPs.
Investor Environment is considered the second highest critical uncertainty. This relates both to the unstable regulatory framework over the past decade and inconsistencies, either within the national energy policy priorities, or between the national and the newly adopted EU policy. However, the ambitious EU plans for energy and economy transformation will only be realised if all the various stakeholder groups get involved in the forthcoming change processes. The scope of mobilisation of private investments and the corresponding capital cost for new energy projects are highly dependent on a clear strategic direction and stable regulatory framework.
Nuclear is seen as an action priority. This source has traditionally played an important role in the country’s power generation, and the government plans to expand the existing nuclear capacities. Last year’s intentions to continue with the construction of a new power plant in Belene have been cancelled, and the current plan is to add new capacity to the existing plant in Kozloduy.
Renewables are another action priority, with the plan to increase their share of final energy consumption from 20.2% in 2020 to 27.1% in 2030. The main increase is expected to take place in the heating sector, where the renewables share is estimated to reach 42.6% in 2030 (Integrated National Energy & Climate Plan 2021-2030).
Bulgarian energy leaders prioritise energy efficiency and digitalisation as key issues in 2021. These topics require immediate actions along the entire value chain of the energy sector and if not addressed in a timely manner, achieving future decarbonisation and sectoral transformation objectives would be put into question. Having the highest energy intensity in the EU, Bulgaria has introduced and is actively implementing numerous energy efficiency policies. The current level of smart grid development and storage system integration on a national level is low, which represents a hurdle for real-time energy management, active involvement of consumers, increased deployment of intermittent renewable energy sources and exploiting opportunities for regional and European cooperation. At the same time, the national ICT industry is the fastest growing sector in the country and marks continuous improvements in terms of the national level of digital skills (Global Competitiveness Report 2020), so there are sound opportunities for development. Recognising their significant impact for modernisation and sustainable low-carbon transition, the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (still under public consultation) includes both energy efficiency and digitalisation among its key priorities.
Professionals in the sector see the acceleration of electromobility and the empowerment of consumers as important areas for improvement. The developments in both fields are dependent on the overall economic position of Bulgarian citizens, developments in reliable infrastructure to support electromobility and demand-side management as well as availability of local governance initiatives for empowering consumers and informing their future energy and mobility choices.
Finally, transparent policy planning and implementation, together with project development readiness of local authorities will be essential for Bulgarian decision-makers in the energy sector in order to respond to future challenges and opportunities.