Energy security and the future of base energy capacities will be discussed by the participants on the first day of the largest regional forum on Green Transformation, Innovation and the Industries of Tomorrow. From June 20 to 22, for the third year in a row, Dir.bg and 3e-news are organizing the Green Week conference, and this time over 130 panelists from 10 countries will participate. An important element of this discussion will be the planned round table, at which the question will be asked, what is happening with Bulgaria’s energy strategy? The moderator of the round table will be the expert on energy policies Slavcho Neikov.
The international conference “GREEN TRANSITION 2023” coming this week will gather for the third year in a row politicians, ministers, European commissioners, representatives of the European Parliament, as well as business, the non-governmental sector, etc., to discuss the current challenges regarding the green transition to a low-carbon economy – and in all the diversity of the subject. The impressive number of participants from a number of Central and Eastern European countries, as well as their level, is another confirmation of the importance of the discussions.
And if the leading issues such as energy security, energy connectivity, new technologies, etc. are in fact well known, the look at them this time is in the conditions of completely new realities and challenges that have arisen in recent months. Such are the energy crisis that has just subsided; geopolitical changes that have largely freed Europe from dependence on Russian gas; an unprecedented penetration of renewable energy sources; technological boom etc. In short – in about a year, the world as a whole and Europe in particular took unexpected steps beyond the canon known to us until recently, which, especially at the national level, require a complete rethinking of the medium- and short-term vision for energy policy and for economic development in its entirety. Especially sensitive topics such as energy poverty, investments, circular economy, food security, digitalization, etc. complement the highlights of the event.
And what exactly are we doing in our country?
The trends and topics mentioned above do not escape Bulgaria either – and in this context, the fundamental question is whether the institutions have a clear vision of where we are going and whether they take into account that the green transition is not flying over our country, but has objectively been here for a long time. From such a point of view, the forum will certainly play a particularly important role in hearing both the opinions and the expectations of those who actually make the reforms – and they have long been in the hands of business and representatives of the scientific community, and often happen despite the efforts of the politicians.
Such conferences are prepared for months – this one also happens to coincide with the arrival of the new regular government and the next edition of the Bulgarian parliament. The question is whether these institutions are ready to listen and take relevant power decisions according to their powers. And in fact, things can be summed up with one sentence to the authorities that I heard not long ago – “don’t hinder us, but help”! And this is actually a valid message, regardless of whether it is about the transformation of coal capacities, the development of RES technologies or the normative and regulatory framework in its entirety.
Once again, there are probably more questions than answers. And our politicians continue to give radically opposite signals on basic topics related to the Bulgarian energy sector, which are directly related to the green transition. Here’s a few examples.
For some, coal will lead the generation of electricity until at least 2038 – never mind that after the extraordinary 2022 with its energy crisis, from the beginning of 2023 there was a huge decline in the operation of coal-fired power plants due to crushing competition from RES, which trend will inevitably continue. In parallel, while in some regions the non-governmental sector is winning projects to build hydrogen valleys, in these same regions there is active resistance to preserve the coal status quo – often with crazy political talk for the sake of one vote or another in the elections, but without economic arguments.
For others, the construction of the BELENE NPP should start immediately, as they consider it a guarantor of the politicians’ favorite bubblegum called “energy independence”. None of these supporters of the project mention, however, that it has long been beset with factual, legal and regulatory problems and that there is a lack of clarity about its cost. Apparently, the fact that it is not at all clear when the construction activities could start, and that after this start, it will take at least ten years before any regular operation of the plant can be started, remains an apparently negligible detail.
The legislation related to the connection of new renewable capacities is supposedly moving forward, but the questions and answers related to supporting the development of electricity networks are not at all unambiguous.
Who knows why the topic of fuels continues to be treated abstractly on its own outside of the general energy context – in which however the topic of electric cars is touched upon e.g. etc. etc.
About the institutions and their tasks
The conference program envisages discussions on a number of conceptual issues related to the powers of both the government and the National Assembly, which will certainly touch on painful issues related to the green transition, such as:
– What about territorial plans for a just transition for coal regions;
– What is the schedule regarding the Recovery and Sustainability Plan, which energy projects are a priority and with what time frame of implementation;
– Is the revision of the Integrated Energy and Climate Plan due at the end of June this year ready?
– Are scientific researches and staff training, etc. sufficiently supported?
Against this background, the regular government formed literally days ago already has a flying start, while it will inevitably rely on the work of those before it. The 49th National Assembly, which has been functioning for about two months, seems to be finally beginning to shyly focus on some more substantial work – and this after entertaining us until recently with attempts to form committees without chairmen, as well as with some supposed parliamentary control to fill of time.
And in view of their competences, both institutions face a particularly important topic – the lack of an up-to-date energy strategy. And during the conference, this particular issue will be specifically discussed with the aim of helping them to finally be accepted.
The composition of CEWR is also due to be updated, where the parliament is again a debtor, incl. and to stabilize the institution – the Commission will undoubtedly have a huge role in the successful implementation of the steps on the green transition.
It is clear that such a forum as the international conference “GREEN TRANSITION 2023” cannot replace the work of institutions at the national level – but it can undoubtedly stimulate it with ideas and concrete proposals regarding the green transition in all its diversity, which far exceeds the energy sector.
The starting position, however, remains the reality that this transition is not only inevitable – it creates concrete opportunities for national, regional and European security based on the modernization of views and resp. modernization of the economy in its entirety, with a strong social orientation. And this should not only be clearly stated by those in power, but also clothed in concrete, systematic actions on the above-mentioned problems, which we all expect in the near future – unfortunately, due to political inconsistencies and a lack of political vision, the backwardness in the national plan is a reality in many directions.