Bulgaria to replace coal complex with solar gigawatts


Photo: iStock


March 10, 2023






March 10, 2023





Bulgaria is leaning on nuclear power, renewables and energy efficiency in its efforts to achieve full decarbonization by 2050, Minister of Energy Rossen Hristov said. The government is discussing plans to gradually install several gigawatts of solar power facilities within the Maritsa East Mines (Mini Maritsa iztok) complex.

Electricity consumption will be increasing with the electrification of industry and transportation and the introduction of hydrogen as a replacement for natural gas, Minister of Energy of Bulgaria Rossen Hristov said, as quoted by In his view, the simultaneous deployment of nuclear and renewable energy capacities is the most appropriate way for the country to decarbonize by mid-century and secure enough electricity.

Bulgaria needs power at “an extremely affordable price while maintaining its leading position in the region as an exporter,” Hristov pointed out. He also highlighted the positive effects of energy efficiency measures, especially for industry.

Intensive negotiations with investors

The vision for the transformation of the electricity sector includes the gradual transformation of the Maritsa iztok (Maritsa East) coal complex, the minister underscored. He said the government is discussing a project to install photovoltaic systems of “several gigawatts” on the territory of Mini Maritsa iztok or Maritsa East Mines, the company operating open-pit mines and supplying power plants with coal.

The plans for the energy transition are relying on the funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. Hristov revealed the government is “negotiating intensively with a number of investors” about building solar power plants on degraded coal land and that it needs to be recultivated.

Grid saturation hampers renewables deployment

Bulgaria wants to keep the existing electricity capacities as long as it is necessary to avoid shocks and an economic impact, the energy minister stressed. The biggest issues for the expansion of renewable energy are the necessary simplification of the legal framework and the bottlenecks in network upgrades, in his view. The latter is being addressed with investment projects and the allocation of European funds, Hristov said.

Funds intended for geothermal power projects should be used for geothermal heating, Hristov said

As for storage, the government’s vision includes the construction of another pumped storage hydropower plant, according to the minister. Turning to geothermal energy, he said the funds earmarked for the sector should be diverted from geothermal power projects and used for heating facilities.

In the rest of Southeastern Europe, major solar power projects are underway on depleted coal mines and accompanying ash and slag dumps in Greece. North Macedonia and Slovenia have installed the first such facilities while Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo* are still developing projects.

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