The Environment Program plans to finalize BGN 600 million for the replacement of old stoves for 100,000 households by 2027

The installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof will be only for up to 1600 families who receive energy subsidies

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Raya Lecheva

Photovoltaic panels will be able to be installed on households that receive energy subsidies for heating, and only when their chosen alternative is an air-to-air heat pump.

Unlike the measure for electric cars, which was not allowed for funding under the new program "Environment" 2021-2027, the measure to replace heating appliances has never been questioned by the European Commission. This was announced by 3e-news.net from the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW). The funds for the replacement of solid fuel heaters (wood and coal) will be for nearly BGN 600 million from 2021-2027 and are planned to be provided to 100,000 families. This is an average of BGN 6,000 per household.

The focus of the Air priority program are the municipalities with impaired air quality and especially those that fall within the scope of the EC case against Bulgaria for non-compliance with the norms for content of fine dust particles - PM10 - Sofia, Varna, Plovdiv and municipalities in the North , Southwestern, Southeastern Bulgaria.

Support for measures addressing sources of air pollution is also eligible for municipalities where there are no permanent monitoring points, but excessive pollution has been registered under the PM10 indicator with mobile automatic stations of the Executive Environment Agency (EEA).

The measure to replace solid fuel heaters is key, given the high efficiency and expectations for the fastest direct result in terms of reducing PM emissions (cause of premature death of over 12 thousand Bulgarian citizens in 2018, QA Report in Europe of 2020 by the European Environment Agency).

The program states that alternative heating excludes fossil fuels, except for the replacement of coal stoves with boilers / heating systems running on natural gas with a limit of gas boilers up to 1 MW. A small pilot procedure will encourage the use of renewable energy, hydrogen and other innovative alternatives, where applicable. According to EEA Report No 22/2018, areas with lower socio-economic status tend to have higher levels of PM pollution.

There will be limited RES on the roof

Just a few weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov announced that part of the program's resources would be used to install roof panels. But it turns out that the coverage will be quite limited and will cover primarily families who still receive energy benefits. The installation of photovoltaic panels will be permissible, but not as an alternative to wood and coal heating, said in response to questions from 3e-news.net by the Ministry of Ecology. The measure is allowed only in order not to aggravate the problems with the so-called from the European Commission "Energy Poverty" and in this sense such panels will be able to install households that receive energy subsidies for heating and only when their chosen alternative is an air-to-air heat pump (air conditioner with COP 3.5), explained from MOEW

According to preliminary estimates, between 1,400 and 1,600 households that meet these criteria will be able to benefit from this possibility in the municipalities with impaired air quality, which will be beneficiaries under this procedure.

In Bulgaria, almost 40% of all households experience
difficulties in providing heating for their homes

Various factors will be prioritized - low profitability, heating subsidies and investment efficiency in terms of unit cost per saved PMF emissions, in order to cover as many households as possible. For the purposes of QA, the use of wood is only permissible for low-income households receiving heating subsidies and for vulnerable groups, provided that the new heating device complies with the Ecodesign Directive.

The program will finance the construction of green infrastructure to improve air quality. Green infrastructure includes green walls, green areas, green mud patches, green roofs, etc., including smart green solutions.

In our country the indicator "green areas per person in cities is 3-15 sq.m./person,
which is far from the European requirements for 20 sq.m. per person

The measures will have an additional positive effect also in view of the findings in the National Biodiversity Strategy that in Bulgaria the indicator “green areas per person” in large settlements vary from 3-15 sq.m./person., which is far from the European requirements for 20 sq.m. per person. The focus is on air quality through investments in plant species with the highest degree of efficiency in terms of capturing PM and purifying the air naturally.

The intervention to improve the quality of air quality monitoring supports the modernization and upgrading of existing stations, an integral part of the National Real-Time Air Quality Monitoring System managed by the EEA. A significant part of the equipment has been in operation for more than 15 years. Investments in the replacement of equipment with modern alternatives and upgrading of the reporting module will lead to improved quality of data, including those transmitted in real time, quality assurance through automatic checks and more. The support is not aimed at expanding the system.

The national network of air quality experts is key, given that the measures for increasing the expert capacity are aimed at the beneficiaries and the bodies engaged in the development and implementation of air quality policies, including the control over their implementation.

The types of activities are assessed as compatible with the principle of "non-harm" - according to the Technical Guidelines for the implementation of the principle according to the Regulation on the Mechanism for Recovery and Sustainability.

When replacing heating appliances, investment demand is linked either to the need to comply with regulatory requirements or is stimulated by grants. As there is no legal restriction on the use of solid fuel in Bulgaria, grant funding should be applied, the experts argue in the document of the program. Surcharges or financial instruments are even more impossible given the criminal proceedings against Bulgaria, which require a rapid change in the way of heating and improving air quality. The limited capabilities of households should also be taken into account - wood and coal heating is usually used by low-income and socially disadvantaged groups.

The implementation of financial instruments is an applicable measure to promote electromobility. The acquisition of an electric car is accompanied by savings resulting from local tax exemptions, free parking, significantly reduced operating costs and maintenance costs.

Grants are foreseen for the other priority measures, as the interventions are neither revenue-generating nor cost-saving. As we know, the purchase of electric cars on the other hand was not allowed, as it is out of the focus of Cohesion Policy to reduce disparities between regions. Given the fact that the originally planned funds for electric vehicles were a minimum resource within a small pilot scheme, there is no need to revise the program budget, explained the Ministry of Ecology. Thus, finally, the largest measure is to change the heating from wood and coal to gas, pellets, air conditioners.

We know that high gas prices will not be a good alternative for households, and because of demand, the prices of other energy sources will also rise, and renewables will be forgotten again because they are an investment that energy aid people cannot afford. On the other hand, the need in the cities is much greater than the funds they will have under the program. And the procedures should be much easier, because in some cities public contracts for the replacement of heating appliances are delayed for months, so the whole heating season is missed, with more dirty air, dirty air and more respiratory diseases.

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