A year after the first forum on Bulgaria’s green transition, at its second edition it became clear that empty talk about the transformation of energy, economy and transport continues. And there are still no concrete measures, although President Rumen Radev commented on Tuesday that a war-like plan should be prepared to deal with climate problems.
His namesake Minister of Energy, Rumen Radev, admitted that the challenges have often been conveniently bypassed or shyly kept quiet because they are sensitive for society and business, but promised to seek expert support in finding transparent and workable solutions.
At the same time, the chairman of the supervision of “Eurohold”, which owns the largest electricity distribution company in Bulgaria “Electrohold” – Asen Hristov, announced that at this stage the green transition in Bulgaria is total anarchy and lack of a plan.
The European Commissioner for Regional Development Elisa Ferreira, who took part remotely from Brussels, sadly noted that after a year ago on the spot in Sofia she called for the acceleration of the territorial plans of the coal regions of Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik in order to receive funding for transformation from the European Just Transition Fund, they are not yet a fact. “Today my message remains the same – to finalize the territorial plans to avoid losing new funds. This cannot wait, funds are needed to transform these regions to create new jobs and change their economy” , Ferreira said. She made a reference to the recent floods in our country and their connection to climate change.
Bulgaria has already lost 100 million euros for the green transition in these three regions, but if by the end of 2023 he does not finally submit the territorial plans for approval in Brussels, the country will lose another 860 million euros from this fund, and the lost funds may reach EUR 10 billion by continuing to delay and fail to implement the Recovery and Sustainability Plan.
Loss or gain of economic advantage
This danger was confirmed by the Minister of Economy, Bogdan Bogdanov, who commented that the 860 million euros in question for a new economic infrastructure for decarbonization can be seen as a loss of our country’s economic and regional advantage, or as gaining such an advantage. He also admitted that currently the implementation of green goals in our country is driven more by the market and large companies than by state policy.
At the opening of the conference, President Rumen Radev pointed out that the planning of the green transition should be based on opportunities, goals and threats with the participation of the authorities, the civil sector and the scientific community. “The suspension of gas supplies from Russia has shown that we do not have threat-based planning. The plan for recovery and sustainability is resource-based planning, but this limits the national level of ambition, so it must be planned according to possibilities and achieve balance between all players and reform of state and society”, said the head of state. However, according to him, one must be careful with the speed and with the social cost of the green transition, so as not to fuel Euroscepticism. At the same time, global players such as the USA, Russia and China, where the price of energy is the lowest and affects the outflow of production and investment from Europe, must be assessed.
Routes and money to achieve the goals
Rumen Radev recalled how as a military pilot, when performing combat missions in the Bulgarian Army, the first thing was to study the map of the place and the routes, while when he was training in the USA, the military there always first asked what money they had for the mission. According to him, these two approaches should be combined
From the words of his namesakeminister Rumen Radev, who has been in office for two weeks, it became clear that if the team in the department has any position on the topic of the green transition, it keeps it to itself for the time being, while in the meantime it will collect expert opinions from the professional community and will look for mechanisms to proactively support knowledgeable, capable and reputable experts, associates, entrepreneurs and investors.
According to him, there are many challenges before the Ministry of Energy – to find adequate workable solutions for the future of coal power and to take concrete and effective steps now, not in the indefinite future. We also need solutions for the development of nuclear power, RES, geothermal capacity, energy storage systems, new high-tech low-emission solutions in sync with climate challenges, as well as whether Bulgaria will be a center of energy security and stability for the region and at what cost, said also Minister Radev.
The problems we’re just talking about
The Chairman of the Supervisory Board of “Eurohold” and the majority owner of the company Asen Hristov however, he criticized the politicians for not planning anything concrete for the development of energy, not taking action to increase the capacity of the electricity grid to be able to absorb all the planned 40 GW of renewable energy sources (RES) and the situation is “total anarchy”.
“If we continue like this, in 10 years plan for zero percent wind energy and we will lose all our specialists. If within 12 months Bulgaria does not have a clearly established body to deal with how to make new nuclear reactors, it will not happen,” Asen Hristov warned.
“Our energy, no matter how much we brag about it, is going to the bottom if we don’t take measures”,he also considers, in contrast to President Rumen Radev’s boasting, how much has been achieved by the offices appointed by him for the diversification of energy supplies and the network connectivity of Bulgaria with neighboring and European countries.
The Speaker of the Parliament, Rosen Zhelyazkov from GERB, in turn pointed out that in order for there to be concrete actions to unblock the payments under the Recovery Plan, the current parliament must exist and it must do what the previous three parliaments failed to do, regardless of the tremendous efforts.
Political scientist Ivan Krastev commented that the problem with the green transition is that Bulgarians fear that it will lead to higher prices and the closure of certain industries. Politically, the green transition will not work if one relies on the mobilizing power of choir fears, because they have a paralyzing rather than a mobilizing effect, he believes.
“There is no group in Bulgaria that exerts political pressure to enforce the green idea. In Bulgaria, there is no particular political division regarding the green deal. This doesn’t make it popular. And if our politicians don’t ask themselves how people will respond to the green transition, they can’t do any kind of economic green planning.”, Krastev also pointed out. According to him, the problem in our country is also generational.