Trakia Economic Zone aims to become the first carbon-neutral industrial zone in Europe and the world. Several green energy plants are under construction. The management of the complex in Plovdiv hopes the measures would attract a strategic investor.
Plamen Panchev, founder and chief executive director of the Trakia Economic Zone, says the project began in 2012 with the construction of one of the first photovoltaic plants in Bulgaria.
“Renewable energy sources will become more and more important in production. It gave us hope and over the last five years we have been working on the a comprehensive strategy for turning the industrial zone into a neutral one” in terms of emissions, Panchev told news website Kapital.
In early May, Trakia Economic Zone, located in Plovdiv, the country’s second-largest city, published its Carbon Neutrality and Sustainability Charter, which was endorsed by 22 companies. “This zone is the first industrial association in Europe with a focus on reducing carbon emissions while supporting the creation of new jobs, spreading knowledge and innovation, increasing economic competitiveness and improving the development prospects of the region,” Panchev explained. The goal is to eliminated greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
The plan introduces special measures for companies in the zone, but also for future investors
The plan introduced special measures for companies in the zone, but also for future investors. Companies have been tasked with striving for carbon independence and introducing carbon accounting. In a few years, the factories will be able to connect to a completely carbon-neutral energy network and infrastructure that will be built in the zone, Panchev said. He added that green certificates for construction are being prepared and stressed it is important for future investors.
The transformation process includes 12 components
The transformation process is multi-layered and complex. The plan developed by the Trakia Economic Zone consists of 12 components including the improvement of supply logistics, innovation in e-mobility, professional education, digitalization, social responsibility, optimization in the use of local resources and the transfer of knowledge and technology.
One of the most important initiatives is to stop the use of drinking water for industrial needs, Panchev underscored. The management is cooperating with the water supply operator to find a workable solution.
Energy system without a carbon footprint
An important part of the transformation is to build energy systems that enable carbon-free or low-carbon production. The first steps have already been taken, with the construction of a solar park. A quarter of companies use energy from their roof solar power plants. The plan is to build two more solar power plants, with 20 MW and 5 MW in capacity.
One of the companies in zone, Schneider Electric, is the first in Bulgaria with a geothermal installation for its heating and energy needs.
The green hydrogen and biomethane investments are valued at an overall EUR 20 million
The Trakia Economic Zone has been cooperating with gas distributor and trader Citygas Bulgaria for several years. Together they are working on projects for the production of green hydrogen and biomethane. The two investments are estimated at over EUR 20 million in total.
Chairman of the Board of Directors of Citygas Aleksandar Kozhuharov explained the project would be conducted in modules to monitor the functioning of the system.
“We will introduce hydrogen gradually and slowly. Step by step, in 20 to 25 years, natural gas could be completely replaced,” Kozuharov said.
Biomethane will replace 10% of natural gas
The other energy project that will be jointly undertaken by Trakia Economic Zone and Citygas, for a biomethane plant, is intended to replace 10% of the natural gas needs. The construction was started near the industrial zone. Biomethane production will rely on local resources: waste material from wastewater treatment units and organic waste including from corn, wheat, and food.
With the transformation of the industrial zone toward carbon neutrality, the management hopes to attract a strategic investor.