Bulgaria’s coal regions – Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik, have EUR 1.2 billion in grants from the EU’s Just Transition Fund to shut down mines and coal power plants, rehabilitate land, switch to circular and climate-neutral economy and lift households out of energy poverty.
Bulgaria will receive EUR 1.2 billion from the Just Transition Fund (JTF), as the European Commission approved its territorial just transition plans (TJTPs). The grants are intended to help deliver new jobs and economic activities in the coal regions of Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik, to tackle socio-economic challenges in phasing out coal and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
They will also support Bulgaria to reach the European Union’s 2030 climate and energy targets and a climate-neutral economy by 2050, the announcement reads.
Over 15,000 workers need reskilling, new jobs
The funds are for the transition from coal-based energy production, for reskilling and upskilling and the creation of new employment opportunities for over 15,000 workers. Moreover, 2,190 hectares of land surface area will be rehabilitated to develop industrial areas and deploy renewable energy facilities. The plans envisage technologies such as photovoltaics, biogas, hydrogen, virtual power plants and industrial parks for clean technologies.
On another front, Bulgaria has failed: together with Poland and Austria, the government received a warning from the EU for missing the NECP deadline
Finally, the fund will support the diversification of the local economy by investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and in research and development (R&D) for a circular and climate-neutral economy.
Energy efficiency measures in residential buildings are focused on energy-poor households and vulnerable consumers. In addition, JTF is set to support prosumers and help establish renewable energy communities. It would reduce energy consumption, lower electricity bills and improve living conditions.
The region of Stara Zagora, hosts coal mines and four thermal power plants. The measures include ten municipalities of the Sliven, Yambol and Haskovo regions, where part of the labor force resides. The Just Transition Fund is also for degraded sites to prepare them for alternative economic activities and a shift to green energy, in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Similarly, neighboring Romania has just approved EUR 70.4 million in state aid for the coal phaseout and transformation of the Jiu Valley coal region.
JTF chest now empty but EUR 55 billion more in just transition investments is available in EU
In total, 96 regions receive support of an overall EUR 19.2 billion from JTF through 70 plans. In combination with national cofinancing, EUR 25 billion is foreseen. With the adoption of the Bulgarian TJTPs, the allocation is complete and efforts now focus on implementation.
It also opens the door to dedicated funding under the other two pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism (JTM): a just transition scheme under InvestEU and the Public Sector Loan Facility for Just Transition, which combines commission grants with European Investment Bank loans. The EU expects to mobilize EUR 55 billion over the period through 2027.
However, on the same day, the European Commission decided to open infringement procedures by sending formal notices to Bulgaria, Austria and Poland. Namely, they failed to submit draft updates of their integrated national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for the period 2021-2030 by June 30.