After the upcoming election, the National Assembly of Bulgaria will choose between three scenarios for a coal exit: by 2035, 2038 and 2040, Minister of Energy Andrey Zhivkov said. He also claimed there would be enough gas for the winter.
The caretaker government of Bulgaria declared a U-turn with regard to the country’s energy policy, disregarding the ongoing global energy crisis and the political turmoil that will result in the third general election this year, scheduled for November 14. Minister of Energy Andrey Zhivkov revealed three scenarios are in play for the country’s coal phaseout and that the next parliament would decide between 2035, 2038 and 2040.
His predecessor Temenuzhka Petkova claimed last year that Bulgaria wouldn’t stop using coal before 2050 and previous Prime Minister Boyko Borissov asked the European Commission for help in the process.
In the meantime, a recent version of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan showed the possibility of a shutdown of the largest coal-fueled power plants by 2025, which would likely make further coal exploitation unprofitable.
Bulgaria’s officials are preparing to submit the plan to the European Commission on October 15 and ask for EUR 840 million in grants and EUR 360 million in cheap loans.
Positive signal necessary for miners, coal plant workers
“The problem with the future of coal regions is a social one. In case of a possible closure of power plants and mines, we must give a positive signal for the future of people employed in these sectors,” Zhivkov told BNR.
The energy minister also weighed on the global energy crisis and its implications on Bulgaria. The gas storage facility in Chiren is “about 70% full,” Zhivkov said and stressed there is no risk of electricity or heating fuel shortage.
“Analysts predict prices would remain high – gas prices will subside only in the second quarter of 2022. It also depends on what the winter will be like,” he asserted. Zhivkov separately said that the last jump in prices wasn’t expected by any analyst and estimated the level isn’t sustainable for long. Market prices largely reflect the anxiety and fear of customers, in his view.
Government has financial means to shield households
Small and medium-sized enterprises are the most affected by the spike in gas and power prices, according to the energy minister. The caretaker government has allocated EUR 330 million in electricity subsidies for all companies or EUR 26 per MWh to ease the pressure, but it is up to the next parliament to decide.
The European Union is about to launch a framework for member countries to mitigate the blow from the energy crisis.
Household consumers are protected at least until the end of the year as their electricity prices are regulated, Zhivkov pointed out. He said that in the case prices need to go up, the government would use all its financial reserves to lower the costs in the segment.