Bulgaria’s recovery plan aims at 2040 coal exit: PM

File photo. Caretaker Prime Minister Stefan Yanev in the Bulgarian parliament. [Dnevnik/Yuliya Lazarova]

Bulgaria will try to negotiate 2040 as its target deadline to phase out coal for electricity production when it submits its coronavirus recovery plan to the European Commission, interim PM Stefan Yanev said Thursday (14 October).

The Balkan country will submit its plan on Friday, making it one of the last EU members to do so to be able to tap into the bloc’s €800 billion pandemic recovery package.

To secure its share of the funds, Sofia has to negotiate a target deadline for shutting polluting coal-fired power plants and implement rule-of-law reforms to guarantee corruption-free spending of the money.

Bulgaria, which is heavily dependent on coal to cover its energy needs, is not among the EU members that have pledged to phase out coal-powered electricity by 2030.

Bulgaria’s Radev hardens tone on EU climate policy

In what appears to have been a preview of his statement at the EU summit, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev told journalists in Brussels on Tuesday (25 May) that the EU’s climate policy comported “dangers” for low-income countries like his.

“We have given (as proposals) two deadlines, 2038 and 2040, and we will push for 2040 during the negotiations,” Yanev told journalists after a government session that approved the plan.

Bulgaria is eligible to apply for as much as €10.7 billion in EU subsidies and cheap loans to be used over the next six years with 38% of the direct aid earmarked for projects related to energy sector decarbonisation.

The final document will still be subject to approval by parliament.

Two elections have left Bulgaria with a fragmented parliament without any party being able to form a government since mid-May. New elections will be held on 14 November.

The plans for a coal phase-out have caused uproar in two poor western regions, as well as the central town of Stara Zagora, which is home to a complex of mines and four thermal-power plants, including the largest on the Balkans — state-owned Maritsa East 2.

Several hundred miners and Maritsa East 2 workers protested on Wednesday outside the government headquarters in Sofia against the planned closures.

“Shutting the Maritsa East complex will be catastrophic… We need an alternative, we need a plan for transition and recovery and not one for closure as they offer now,” Podkrepa miners’ union chief Vladimir Topalov said.

The government has proposed setting up a state company to convert mining areas into industrial parks, giving jobs to former workers.

Last year, 34% of Bulgaria’s electricity came from thermal power plants run on locally mined and highly polluting lignite coal, energy ministry data show.

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