President Rumen Radev referred the recently adopted Energy from Renewable Sources Act to the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria to prevent the use of agricultural land for electricity production. In addition, he refused to enact the changes to the Law on Energy over the lack of a mechanism to protect consumers.
The Government of Bulgaria and the National Assembly recently rushed to amend the Energy from Renewable Sources Act and the Law on Energy so that the country doesn’t lose access to funds from the European Union’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. However, due to controversies over a number of provisions, President Rumen Radev is trying to overturn them both.
Following a lengthy political crisis, the two largest parties have agreed to overcome their rivalry and form a joint cabinet. Radev is an independent political figure, though he was nominated by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party. He even referred one of the two laws to the Constitutional Court.
Echoing the critics of the Law on Energy, the president said it would directly affect livelihoods and the sustainability of the energy system. The standard of living of the majority of Bulgarian citizens remains the lowest in the European Union, and the envisaged changes could make it even more difficult for the people who are already struggling to cover their basic expenses, according to Radev.
The head of state vetoed the legislation by refusing to enact it and called on the members of parliament to reconsider it. The adoption wasn’t accompanied by a comprehensive impact assessment, in his view. The way that electricity market liberalization is planned brings a risk of sharp price increases for households, Radev pointed out.
The way that electricity market liberalization is planned brings a risk of sharp price increases for households, according to President Radev, who drew on arguments from earlier criticism of the law
“I do not dispute the need for regulatory changes in accordance with our country’s commitments to the European Union, but European law allows and requires member states to protect energy-poor and vulnerable household customers,” the statement reads. The president argued, among other things, that the definition of energy poverty was too limited.
In addition, scrapping the role of the public supplier and the abolishment of production quotas may lead state-owned coal power plant Maritsa Iztok 2 to a halt by mid-2024, Radev warned.
Radev claims quality arable land is under threat from solar power, other renewables
As for the Energy from Renewable Sources Act, it also changes one part of the Law on the Protection of Agricultural Land. It removes almost all restrictions for the placement of renewable energy installations on arable land, boosting the risk of uncontrolled land conversion, Radev asserted.
The law enables the construction of wind, solar, hydropower and geothermal and bioenergy facilities on locations marked as high as grade 5 (out of 10), the president explained.
Lawmakers have a duty to balance the need for renewable energy with farmland protection
“I support the lawmakers’ desire to expand the regulatory options that promote the production of energy from renewable sources, but this should not come at the expense of protecting farmland. It is their duty to balance these two priorities,” Radev stressed in a complaint to the Constitutional Court. He insists that land is a good of the highest order, basic national wealth that enjoys special protection.
The purpose of agricultural land can be changed in case of emergency, but no such reasons were discussed during the public review of the bill, the president recalled. The objections issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food were not taken into account, Radev added. A great part of the controversial provisions were incorporated in the bill only after the first of two readings in the National Assembly, he underscored.
Regional authorities block decision to convert agricultural land to major photovoltaic park
Just before Radev’s announcement that he filed a motion to the Constitutional Court to scrutinize the renewables law, Regional Governor of Burgas Plamen Yanev blocked a solar power project on agricultural land, BNR reported. He suspended the decision of the Municipal Council of Sredets in Bulgaria’s east to change the purpose of 828 hectares of arable fields and pastures to electricity production and storage.
The inhabitants of four affected villages earlier sent a petition to the regional administration to prevent the construction of a photovoltaic park, claiming it would lead to economic and demographic collapse.