Bulgaria has two main pillars of the electricity producing sector – coal and nuclear. Coal provides roughly half of the electricity in the country and nuclear another 35 per cent. The rest is covered by renewables dominated by large hydro and followed by solar and wind generation.
The currently prepared energy strategy of Bulgaria is likely to continue the coal and nuclear obsessions, with slightly increased reliance on imported gas. By the end of 2015 nearly 1700 MW of old coal capacity should be phased-out.
After that, it is very possible that Bulgaria will make efforts to build a new block in the existing plants of Maritsa East Complex and even develop another project near the city of Lom, where both a new mine and a power plant are have been discussed.
The Bulgarian power market is dominated by state owned producers. Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) manages the most important companies in the energy sector, Kozloduy nuclear power plant (NPP), TPP Maritsa Iztok 2, the National Electric Company (NEK), Electric System Operator (ESO), Bulgargaz, Bulgartransgaz and Bulgartel.
Three types of energy generators can be identified:
- Large producers are either owned by BEH, or privately owned thermal power plants. Each of the power plants has a quota of energy which must be delivered to regulated market, at regulated price. Excesses of energy can be sold through bilateral contracts. This also applies for cogeneration power plants. By 2015, some 1,800 MW in TPPs (in Varna, Bobov Dol and Russe) should be shut down due to environmental reasons.
- Cold reserve: there are some, mostly privately owned power plants with environmental issues and old units. Price of cold reserve is also regulated, and paid by NEK. Currently, cold reserves stand at over 1000 MW, which can be considered as quite unnecessary.
- RES producers: currently installed output of RES plants stands at well over 1700 MW (mostly wind and photovoltaic).
However, burning coal in primitive stoves continues to be a heating practice in Bulgaria, deteriorating further the situation with air pollution in most urban areas.
Still the consumption of coal for domestic heating is only 0.5 per cent (2.5 per cent taking into account the production of briquettes and other non-TPP consumers). Thermal power plants consume 97.5 per cent of the mined and the imported coal (over 30 million tons a year).
The biggest mining activities are situated in the Maritsa East Mining and Energy Complex situated in South Central Bulgaria in the region of Stara Zagora. The mining complex itself is situated on 240 km2 and produces nearly 97 per cent of the lignite in the country.
More on coal in the Balkans
Grasping what a 600% breach of allowed SO2 emissions means is not an easy job, but our data visualisation does just that. In addition to choking the communities where coal power plants are located, SO2 pollution from the Western Balkans often reaches as far as Russia and the Black Sea Coast to the east and Germany to the West!
Despite this deadly legacy, just two years ago, all the Western Balkan countries except Albania still planned to build new coal power plants. Since then, three out of five have abandoned these plans. The region has split, creating a two-speed energy transition.
ContourGlobal is quitting the planned 500 MW Kosova e Re lignite power plant project in Kosovo. The company stated that it is now impossible for the project to meet the required milestones, citing, among others, the recent formation of a government led by a Prime Minister publicly opposed to the project.