BTA News

Bulgaria Has More than 3,000 MW of Renewable-Energy Power Generation Capacities, Expert Says

With 1,700 MW to 1,800 MW of renewable-energy power generation capacities (PGCs) connected to the Bulgarian power grid over the last year and a half, the country now has more than 3,000 MW of such capacities. Wind power systems have not expanded since 2012, when their total output capacity was 700 MW, Electricity System Operator (ESO) Executive Director Angelin Tsachev said, interviewed by BTA in connection with the energy sector reform.

Next year will see the addition of another 1,000 MW to 1,500 MW of newly built solar-energy PGCs, Tsachev predicted.

He said that the process of connecting new capacities to the power grid goes hand in hand with the physical development of the grid itself, but the more important question is how these capacities are managed and how the system is regulated. The ESO has called for the development of maneuverable reserve capacities to help manage the use of intermittent energy resources. At present, batteries are the technology which can be applied most rapidly, but the most efficient way to store industrial amounts of electricity is pumped hydroelectric energy storage, the expert said.

The increase in renewable-energy PGCs will create a huge surplus of electricity in April-May and September-October, when electricity consumption in Bulgaria will be at its lowest. Given the lack of maneuverable reserve capacities, this can create a very high risk for the functioning of the system. Therefore, all electricity producers will probably have to limit their output, Tsachev warned.

In this context, he was asked to comment on the government’s plans to build two more reactor units at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant. He said the most important thing is the security of electricity supplies to all consumers in Bulgaria. Every year, electricity producers have 8,760 hours to take care of, not just the periods of low consumption, Tsachev reasoned.

Taking a question about an EUR 900,000 surplus-electricity penalty imposed on the ESO in April, he explained that it was an actuation of an emergency mechanism related to the ESO’s membership of ENTSO-E, the European association for the cooperation of transmission system operators for electricity. The reason for the fine was that Bulgaria did not have enough maneuverable reserve capacities to handle its electricity surplus. The surplus was not due only to overproduction from renewables. Part of it resulted from unfair practices of local traders, who bought electricity from other EU countries having a power surplus and just dumped it in Bulgaria without reckoning with consumption fluctuations. With no place to be stored, the electricity was exported from Bulgaria.

Tsachev urged the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission to take measures in the coming months to prevent this from happening again.

He said the ESO is working on several projects to develop the power grid to allow more renewable-energy PGCs to connect to it. One of the projects is under the National Recovery and Resilience Plan. It is aimed to digitize the management processes throughout the whole system. Another major project is being implemented under the REPowerEU initiative. It is intended to rehabilitate and increase the capacity of 880 km of 110 KV power lines. All efforts are focused on the addition of more renewable-energy PGCs. Yet another undertaking is supported by the Energy Ministry and will hopefully be financed by the EU Modernization Fund. It is for the conversion of 1,100 km of 220 KV power lines to carry 400 KV electricity.

The ESO is involved in a joint initiative with the Romanian electricity system operator, which is expected to be approved by the end of this month as an important project of common European interest. It is called Carmen-2 and envisages the building of four 400 KV substations for the purpose of adding wind and solar PGCs in Northeastern Bulgaria, and the construction of 276 km of 400 KV power lines, Tsachev said.