The following commentary was sent to EurActiv by Christian Kjaer.
"Bulgaria faces a huge energy challenge. Last winter's gas crisis, when supplies arriving via Ukraine were turned off, is a sharp reminder of how seriously we should take that challenge. And, if Vladimir Putin's recent remark on Ukraine's apparently unpaid gas bills is anything to go by, the energy crisis could repeat itself this winter.
The EU as a whole imports some 50% of its energy needs, a level the European Commission predicts will rise to 65% by 2030. The Commission also says that a country which depends on one supplier for the majority of its energy needs, as is the case in Bulgaria, is at even greater risk of supply shocks.
But Bulgaria need not be dependent forever. There is another source of energy that is indigenous to Bulgaria: wind. Wind energy technology is ready to be rolled-out on a large scale across Bulgaria and its prospects for providing sustainable and green electricity are bright. By 2020, wind energy could be generating between 13.5% and 15% of Bulgaria's electricity needs. Wind energy is CO2 free and it comes without the importing and carbon costs of fossil fuels.
Investors and developers in the sector are already displaying strong signs of interest – by the end of this year wind energy capacity in Bulgaria will have doubled in comparison with 2008. Such growth is also good news for Bulgaria's commitments to increase the share of renewable energy in the overall power supply as part of the EU's drive to fight climate change.
Wind energy is a nascent industry in Bulgaria, and this means it can also help kick-start the Bulgarian economy. The recession has impacted job markets the world over, but wind energy has the proven ability and strong potential to attract investment in its billions, creating thousands of new jobs. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) predicts that wind energy employment in the EU will more than double from 154,000 jobs in 2007 to 330,000 jobs by 2020 – Bulgaria can be part of this projected surge in employment.
Denmark, Germany and Spain are three examples of how wind can work in reducing energy dependency, creating jobs and working towards climate-change fighting goals. In Denmark alone, wind provides 21% of the country's electricity needs, employing some 23,500 people. Yet, it takes some work to reach this stage. One of the biggest obstacles the wind energy industry needs to overcome lies in electricity grids. European countries, Bulgaria included, are fed their electricity via fragmented and ageing grids that, in their current state, are unable to support large amounts of renewable electricity. Political and financial resources need to be channelled into grids to turn this around.
In November, an EWEA workshop on integrating wind power in Bulgaria took place in Sofia. Government officials and industry representatives discussed how to boost the production of wind energy in the country to put Bulgaria on the path to meeting its climate change and renewable energy targets. Wind as a way out of the economic crisis emerged as an important point given the sectors huge potential for job creation.
Delegates identified the barriers standing in the way of progress in wind energy, and began to set out ways of removing them. With steps like this gathering, Bulgaria, as a key emerging market for the wind industry, can look forward to a future fuelled by an infinite source of energy that is good for the environment and the job market, and free from the chains that are inevitably tied to dependency on imported gas."