Electricity

Hydrogen investor becomes Bulgaria’s new energy minister

Rumen Radev Hydrogen investor becomes Bulgaria s new energy minister

Photo: Institute for Sustainable Transition and Development

Published

June 8, 2023

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Published:

June 8, 2023

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Bulgaria’s new Minister of Energy Rumen Radev is the economic director of Holding Zagora, a company participating in the Stara Zagora hydrogen valley project.

Two years since the start of the political crisis in Bulgaria and after five general elections, the National Assembly appointed Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov. New Minister of Energy Rumen Radev is an industrialist who, among other areas, is active in the promotion of a hydrogen valley project in Stara Zagora, the country’s fifth-biggest city.

The government was formed by Denkov’s alliance Continue the Change / Democratic Bulgaria (PP-DB) and the coalition of GERB and the Union of Democratic Forces. According to the agreement, GERB’s Mariya Gabriel, a former European commissioner, will replace him after nine months.

Street lighting from fuel cells, hydrogen buses envisaged for Stara Zagora

Rumen Radev is the economic director of Holding Zagora, one of the partners in the hydrogen valley project. The concept implies the creation of the entire value chain from production and storage to distribution to consumption. The European Union allows state aid for green hydrogen, obtained through electrolysis using renewable electricity, and low-carbon hydrogen overall, which includes the utilization of nuclear power.

The Zagora Sustainable Hydrogen Region (ZAHYR) was one of seven smaller projects of the kind that won grants of EUR 8 million each in January from Horizon Europe. They were approved through the Clean Hydrogen Partnership, a public-private mechanism. Radev is the coordinator for the proposed hydrogen valley.

Minister Rumen Radev is the coordinator of the ZAHYR hydrogen valley project

The local authority has earmarked 20.6 hectares of municipal land in the village of Elenino for a photovoltaic plant of 22 MW. It is envisaged to supply an electrolyzer that would produce 500 tons of green hydrogen per year.

Radev said last year that the idea is also to use a stationary fuel cell unit to power street lighting in a park and the pedestrian area in Stara Zagora. The other idea was to introduce hydrogen-fueled city buses, the first hydrogen filling station in the Balkans and a hub for trucks running on hydrogen, he revealed.

Rough legislative path ahead

The new energy minister is also the vice chair of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association, chairman of copper producer Assarel-Investment and board member at Assarel-Medet, a board member at the Institute for Sustainable Transition and Development and deputy chair of the Bulgarian Hydrogen, Fuel Cell and Energy Storage Association – BGH2A. Radev holds university degrees in physics and finance.

Of note, he has the same name and last name as President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev, who warned of urgent action in the energy sector before the new government was appointed. The now former Acting Prime Minister Galab Donev pointed out that the population and businesses are concerned about electricity and gas supply for the forthcoming winter.

The government needs to adopt necessary legislation fast to get access to the second tranche of funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, as it requires a green light from the European Commission.

Bulgaria is trying to convince the EU to accept a lower national obligatory emission cut level for 2025 and still approve the grants and cheap loans. Minister Radev’s predecessor Rossen Hristov suggested compensating the less ambitious greenhouse gas emissions goals by doubling the 3.5 GW target for new electricity capacity by 2026.

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