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Bulgaria decides to bet on geothermal

Bulgaria decides to bet on geothermal

The proposed EU recovery plan calls for a comprehensive energy strategy for the country

On 21 July, the interim government in Bulgaria published their proposal for funding through the EU’s post-Covid recovery plan. It calls for just under 800 million euros to facilitate the country’s green energy transition, with the focus being on geothermal, hydrogen and solar roof aid for individual households.

Compared to the previous unfinished version of the plan, left by Bulgaria’s last coalition government, the aid towards photovoltaic roofs for individual households has increased sevenfold and the funds for the production of green hydrogen have increased by a third.

At the same time, the plan calls for a significant reduction to the budget for the pipeline to the Maritza Iztok energy complex, currently operating at minimum capacity. The pipeline was previously intended to speed up the large coal plant’s transition to hydrogen by 2030. 

A portrait of the long-term goals of Bulgaria’s energy

The lion’s share of the funding, around 448 million euros, will go towards the establishment of renewable energy sources with storage batteries capable of producing 1.7 gigawatts of energy. However, private investors will have to supply another 900 million euros for the completion of the projects.

Another 35 million will go towards financing enterprises producing green hydrogen, with companies receiving 45% to 60% of their proposed funding. The ultimate goal of this part of the proposal is to foster cooperation between the government and producers, both working to secure additional EU funding from 2022 onwards.

In the end, by 2026, Bulgaria should be able to produce 7800 tonnes of green hydrogen. Some of it should go through the revised Maritza Iztok pipeline, fuelling the power plant after its redevelopment.

The most significant increase is in the money going towards solar roofs for individual homes. In the previous iteration of the plan, the sum was 10 million euros, now it has ballooned to 70 million. This is expected to benefit around 60,000 households, a five times increase on the previously proposed number.

The most exciting development is in the planned investment in geothermal energy, a resource that was wholly uninteresting to previous Bulgarian governments. The proposition calls for exploring the viability of a power plant in Northern Bulgaria. There is some evidence to suggest that geothermal energy is available at a depth of 4500 - 4800 metres.

Four villages in the North have been identified as potential candidates, two around the city of Montana, one near Vratsa and one near Lovech, where the new electric car manufacturing plant will be located.

The Technical University in tandem with the Sustainable Energy Development Agency will carry out exploratory drilling in the identified locations. Furthermore, a part of the money will be used in the creation of a research lab in the Technical University to provide academic aid and experts towards the further development of the concept.

Deputy Prime Minister Atanas Pekanov stressed there are some key aspects of the plan that the interim government has not completed intentionally, because, as non-elected government caretakers, they should not be making long term decisions on the development of the country. These will be voted on by the newly elected parliament in the coming months.

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