Skip to content

RE-Source Southeast 2022 Conference Opens in Sofia

A two-day regional conference on renewable energy RE-Source Southeast was opened at Sofia Tech Park on Tuesday. Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov, Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Policies and Environment Minister Borislav Sandov, the Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Bulgarian Wind Energy Association (BGWEA) and member of the Board of the National Energy Chamber – Miglena Stoilova, and Electricity System Operator (ESO) Executive Director Angelin Tsachev were among the participants on the first day of the conference.
Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said that the best thing for each energy system in transition is to have current capacities to balance out the transition and make it the most efficient. He underscored that if power generating plants which operate on fossil fuels are shut down, both in Bulgaria and in Europe the system will collapse.
According to the Energy Minister, if Europe does not implement an adequate and well-planned policy, it will be impossible for Bulgaria too. Nikolov specified that in Southeastern Europe which has a shortage of electricity Bulgaria is the only balancer which exports electricity, so Bulgaria’s electricity system is export oriented and neighboring countries depend on it. He added that having Renewable Energy Sources (RES) projects whose capacity exceeds three times the country’s peak consumption means that there is no problem with the licensing regime, but the implementation of these projects is delayed. “Things are neither very black, as they are made out to be sometimes, nor very white,” said Nikolov. He specified that the normative framework should be changed.
Deputy Prime Minister for Climate Policies and Environment Minister Borislav Sandov told the conference that changes to the legislation already allow a much easier procedure for installing RES systems for self-consumption. According to him, this is a step ahead in an attempt to speed up the inevitable transformation and allow the business and consumers to produce themselves electricity.
In Sandov’s words, Bulgaria should decentralize more its energy system, install more RES facilities and have more market players, even small ones. He said that even households which install roof solar panels become part of the country’s energy system in some way.
BGWEA Chair Miglena Stoilova stated that the production of electricity from RES has a central role in the process of transition to low-carbon and independent energy.
Stoilova explained that in addition to being a major source of zero-emission electricity, RES are helping to achieve the decarbonization targets. Also, renewable energy helps to achieve energy independence. She pointed out that electricity from wind, solar and water relies exclusively on local and directly available resources and overcomes the problems arising from dependence on energy supplies. In addition, renewable energy has the potential to significantly contribute to the competitiveness of the economy. Stoilova pointed out that the price of electricity from renewable sources is currently several times lower than electricity, which relies on imported energy sources and is carbon-intensive.
Demand from corporate and industrial consumers for renewable electricity under long-term contracts has been “gaining momentum” in recent years to meet the problems of predictability and stability of electricity prices and, on the other hand, to achieve corporate carbon footprint reduction targets. At present, bilateral contracts have been signed in Europe for the supply of renewable energy for 26 gigawatts of power, Stoilova said.
The BGWEA Chair explained that accelerating the construction of renewable energy sources requires legislative and regulatory changes to ease the permitting regime, as well as adaptation and modernization of the electricity network. The market for balancing energy must be developed and electricity storage systems must be built, Stoilova added.
ESO Executive Director Angelin Tsachev said that ESO has invested more than 50 million leva in the digitalization of the power grid.
Tsachev said the work in progress is now focused on building the systems for automatic control of power substations nationwide. So far, more than 150 substations have shifted to automatic control, out of the total of some 256 substations.
Tsachev said that the entire process of digitalization of the controls at the medium-voltage level is expected to be completed towards the end of 2024, which is almost 18 months earlier than the planned deadline in mid-2026. The quick completion deadline is intended to ensure the fulfillment of all power grid link-up agreements, in particular the medium-voltage grid, because ESO thinks it will handle all projects for renewable energy generation.
The goals put down in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan are for ESO to ensure grid link-up capability of more than 4,500 MW. At the moment, ESO has signed preliminary agreements for 4,000 MW.
Another goal ESO needs to achieve is to increase the cross-border transmission capacity by 2,000 MW, Tsachev said, noting that work on this is also proceeding with a very good pace. Bulgaria is ready with its part of the power line to connect with the grid in Greece. The power line is 122 km long and the Greek side is expected to build the remaining 29 km, expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Other goals pertaining to electricity in the National Recovery and Resilience Plan include new systems for central and regional grid switchboards which are expected to be ready in 2026. Furthermore, a new market system will be build to replace the current one which will be able to handle all market changes as they happen. “We will do everything planned in Europe which will make us part of the common electricity market and which will be a fact towards 2026,” Tsachev said.