Mission Green Bulgaria: Experts' Recommendations to Support the Energy Transition in Bulgaria

See the challenges and the ideas for sustainable development reforms, generated by the expert group "Mission Energy Independence", part of the initiative "Mission Green Bulgaria".


От МOVE.BG, публикувана на 8 август 2022

MOVE.BG-initiated Green Restart Coalition has brought together over 50 of Bulgaria's leading experts in the fields of innovation economy, energy transition, bioeconomy and biomass, smart cities, nature-based solutions and sustainable finance. In June, motivated by the desire to turn Bulgaria into one of the green and innovative leaders in Europe, they took part in a special event for generating sustainable development ideas "Mission Green Bulgaria". 

During the event, over 150 challenges to Bulgaria's green transformation were outlined, as well as over 150 recommendations to overcome them. The Green Restart Coalition summarized the ideas in a special report containing six thematic chapters, based on the six groups into which the participants were divided:

  • Mission Green Innovation
  • Mission Energy Independence
  • Mission Bioeconomy
  • Mission Smart Cities
  • Mission Nature-based Solutions
  • Mission Sustainable Finance

Today, we present to you the challenges and recommendations, generated by the expert group Mission Energy Independence. Among the participants in the panel are:

  • Balin Balinov, Energy Solutions Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace Bulgaria, panel moderator
  • Christian Dimitrov, Expert, Greenpeace Bulgaria, panel rapporteur
  • Mariana Yaneva, Expert, Association for Production, Storage and Trading of Electricity (APSTE)
  • Todor Todorov, Expert, For the Earth Environmental Association
  • Miglena Stoilova, VP Acquisitions & Special Projects at CWP Global, Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Bulgarian Wind Energy Association (BGWEA), Member of the Managing Board of the National Energy Chamber
  • Genady Kondarev, Expert, E3G

Mission Energy Independence

Did you know?

The EU policies aimed at ensuring an independent energy system build on the priority development of the capacity to produce energy from renewable energy sources (RES), including the pro-active support to the establishment of energy communities and the involvement of consumers as energy producers for their own needs on the energy market. In accordance with the official EU documents, the transition to primarily renewable sources is important for several main reasons, including the following:

“The increased use of energy from renewable sources or ‘renewable energy’ constitutes an important part of the package of measures needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions [...]

The increased use of energy from renewable sources also has a fundamental part to play in promoting the security of energy supply, sustainable energy at affordable prices, technological development and innovation as well as technological and industrial leadership while providing environmental, social and health benefits as well as major opportunities for employment and regional development, especially in rural and isolated areas, in regions or territories with low population density or undergoing partial deindustrialization.”

Where are we?

Bulgaria continues to be highly dependent on fossil fuels: over 60% of electricity is produced from coal, while petroleum products and solid fossil fuels accounted for more than 24% each in the total energy mix and the share of natural gas exceeded 14% in 2020, as is seen in the EC consolidated data. At the same time, the EU directive on energy decentralization (REDII) has not been transposed in the national legislation yet, although the deadline for its transposition was June 2021. It is the transposition of the Directive in the national legislation that is expected to promote the establishment of energy communities, including the regulation of citizens’ rights in the energy sector.

“Energy communities are a form of cooperation of various citizens with the opportunity for local authorities to join for the purpose of becoming active participants in the production, storage and supply of energy”, reads the legal analysis of Greenpeace Bulgaria.

“Although Bulgaria has the potential to establish such communities, there is not a single energy project of this type implemented anywhere in the country [...] Great hopes are pinned on this legislative act [the Directive] to trigger such public-private projects.

Challenges

Legislative and administrative challenges

  • Delayed transposition of the EU Directive on energy decentralization
  • Lack of clear definitions of energy communities and self-consumers in the primary and secondary legislation
  • Lack of sufficient expertise in the administration: understaffing and lack of training programmes
  • Lack of a government methodology for the implementation of energy decentralization
  • Lack of a vision and plan for the establishment of energy communities, including local authorities as participants
  • Lack of a vision and plan for the restructuring of hydropower plants
  • Lack of centralized data on the number, location and condition of the RES systems
  • Dysfunctional National Tripartite Council: RES experts are not members of the Council when decisions are made on the energy transition
  • Dysfunctional Economic and Social Council: RES experts are not members of the Council when decisions are made on the energy transition
  • Problems with the elaboration and adoption of territorial just transition plans
  • Lack of clearly defined responsibilities of government authorities with regard to their duties to ensure a successful energy transition, which leads to problems with the dilution and continuous shunning of responsibility and failure to resolve fundamental problems
  • Lack of a single portal to serve energy projects
  • Lack of clearcut rules and deadlines for the public administration to handle RES projects
  • Lack of an adequate buildings policy, which prevents the development of working energy efficiency and decentralization models
  • Lack of financial decentralization at the municipal level, which prevents the implementation of policies and projects

Financial challenges

  • Problems with the payment of experts in the administration: low salaries are a disincentive and lead to staff turnover;
  • Underinvestment in the energy transmission network: the network is not ready for effective decentralization of the system yet
  • Underinvestment in energy storage solutions
  • Underinvestment in human capital to be trained in the installation and maintenance of RES systems
  • Underinvestment in auxiliary activities needed for the maintenance of RES systems

Education and information challenges:

  • Lobbyist campaigns against RES projects
  • Media campaigns against the energy transition to clean forms of energy generation
  • Shortage of media knowledge and understanding of the objectives of the energy transition, including the objectives of the EU Green Deal
  • Lack of trust on the part of citizens
  • Insufficient promotion of good practices and working examples of the energy transition

Solutions

Legislative and administrative solutions

  • Prioritization of the transposition of the EU Directive on energy decentralization
  • Adoption of clear definitions of energy communities and self-consumers in the primary and secondary legislation
  • Implementation of measures to enhance the expert capacity in the public administration: conduct of large-scale training programmes for the administration
  • Adoption of a clear government methodology for the implementation of energy decentralization
  • Adoption of a national plan for the establishment of energy communities, including local authorities as participants
  • Further removal of legal and administrative obstacles to the development of energy-independent municipalities and to opportunities for energy communities and individual households to become self-consumers
  • Adoption of a national plan for the restructuring of hydropower plants with a view to incorporating them in the solutions for a successful green transition without any harm to the environment and biodiversity
  • Establishment of a system with centralized data on RES systems
  • Reform of the National Tripartite Council to ensure maximum representation of all stakeholders
  • Reform of the Economic and Social Council to ensure maximum representation of all stakeholders
  • Prioritization of the preparation of territorial just transition plans with the participation of the stakeholders
  • Clear wording and dissemination of the responsibilities of individual units in the public administration, including the methods of monitoring the discharge of their duties
  • Establishment of a one-stop-shop RES platform: setting-up of an administrative unit to provide information and to handle documents. The goal is to avoid the “rush” to many different institutions and to reduce the administrative burden. This should not be simply an information centre but a genuine place for people to receive everything for their RES projects. One-stop shops should be opened not only in the regional but also in the municipal centres
  • Development of an administrative guidebook on the steps for the implementation of a RES project. These steps should be clearcut and followed by the administration when applications for RES installations of smaller capacity are submitted with a view to minimizing the administrative burden and preventing the avoidance of responsibility
  • Establishment of a national body to monitor the observance of the procedures relating to RES projects
  • Adoption of a strategy for the development of the buildings policy, emphasizing primarily on energy efficiency and the promotion of the energy decentralization
  • Decentralization of electricity production on the municipal level with a view to strengthening the country’s energy independence: implementation of genuine decentralization in which individual municipalities are free to choose their economic and energy transformation on the basis of the regional plans that have been elaborated with their participation. Construction of medium-sized RES district heating facilities in smaller towns and rural areas in accordance with the principle of producing energy as close to consumers as possible
  • Reform of the management of the electricity system: development of a methodology for international transmission of power from places where its current price is lower to places with higher prices

Financial solutions:

  • Improvement of the financial conditions for energy experts in the public administration: both salaries and funding of their activities
  • Investment in the energy transmission network to prepare the system for decentralization
  • Investment in solutions to store energy over time: energy storage measures from the time of production to the time of consumption, which will balance the system. Storage of electrical power through heat energy
  • Investment in human resources: training of specialists in the installation and maintenance of RES systems
  • Investment in the development of infrastructure for the assembly of RES installation components
  • Introduction of measures to involve and convince businesses to invest in RES projects for their own consumption to reduce energy costs

Education and information solutions:

  • Implementation of public awareness campaigns to highlight the great importance of energy efficiency issues
  • Targeted dissemination of working solutions for the transition to clean forms of energy production
  • Dissemination of the solutions in the municipalities which have already undertaken specific energy decentralization steps

The challenges outlined and the solutions generated are based on the shared ideas of the participants in the Mission Energy Independence panel. The ideas are summarized and grouped together without any claims that they have been approved unanimously by all participating experts in the panel. 

Read the full “Missin Green Bulgaria”Report here (in English).

Read more about the Green Restart Coalition here (in English).

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