Decarbonisation process in Bulgaria has got stuck between two equally difficult choices – on the one hand, the agreed obligations to the EU for an ambitious energy transition by 2030 and 2050, and on the other, the slow democratisation and entry of renewable energy technology and energy efficiency.

In order to develop effective political measures, the Bulgarian government must plan successive decarbonisation steps in all economic sectors, with annual targets set based on real facts, enabling continuous monitoring and control.

Bulgaria can partially achieve the goals of decarbonising the  EU but the process will be very complicated for our energy sector and industry. These are some of the conclusions that can be drawn from the report “Accelerating the Energy Transition in Bulgaria: Roadmap to 2050”, presented today by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD).

This is of particular importance given the poor coherence between the government’s strategic documents (the National Development Agenda 2030, the National Recovery and Sustainability Plan and the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan) and the EU long-term objectives of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, the CSD states.

The current analysis outlines three “low-carbon pathways” for the development of the green transition in Bulgaria with the perspective till 2050, using an innovative decarbonisation scenario modelling tool called the EU Calculator. It helps to better link the complex integrated energy and climate models and solve the practical dilemmas of politicians who prepare the Bulgarian long-term decarbonization strategy.

The decarbonisation of the energy sector is a particular challenge for Bulgaria. Coal-fueled power plants generate about 40% of the country’s electricity and employ more than 43,000 workers.

This dependence, coupled with the subsidized use of firewood and coal for heating in the housing sector, as well as the targeted policy of supporting mainly large-scale electricity generation capacity from renewable energy sources (RES) and artificially maintained low electricity prices, makes it difficult to democratize and spread renewable projects and energy efficiency in the country.

Outside the energy sector, the government needs to take much more measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (NGPs) and stimulate energy savings. This requires the development of a coherent, long-term decarbonisation strategy in line with the European Green Deal.

The experience from the establishment of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan (INPEC) shows that Bulgarian policy on decarbonisation is too slow to perceive and manage the transition to clean energy.

Political strategists are unable to kick-start a clear-cut policy outlining the transition from coal to clean energy, ensure a fair transition for the regions concerned, nor significantly increase investment in renewable technologies.

Thus, Bulgaria finds itself between the devil and the deep sea – on the one hand, the agreed obligations to the EU for an ambitious energy transition by 2050, and on the other, popular demands for affordable energy, which are further complicated by the ongoing infatuation with large-scale projects, such as the Belene nuclear power plant and the Turk Stream pipeline.