MPs vote unanimously to keep coal plants, oblige government to renegotiate Recovery Plan

The report suggests more money for energy storage for businesses and people and additional funding for energy efficiency

Climate / Bulgaria
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Raya Lecheva

For the first time in several years, the deputies reached a consensus in the parliament, and the unifying solder turned out to be coal energy. After months of bickering and calling out who is to blame for the planned closure of coal plants, MPs have now unanimously decided to seek from Brussels a renegotiation of the commitments made under the National Recovery and Sustainability Plan.

The deputies voted unanimously to oblige the Council of Ministers to start a procedure for renegotiation of the Recovery Plan. The main change, important for the people's representatives, is to drop the obligation to reduce carbon emissions by 40% compared to 2019, the chairman of the energy commission in the parliament from GERB, Delyan Dobrev, who was also the proponent of the project, read out the proposals.

The meeting of the deputies was held under strong security measures. Just today the unions had a national protest in defense of coal power. And the deputies took enough time to talk to the leaders of the protest.

The goal is to extend the operation of the power plants until 2038, Dobrev emphasized from the podium. A little later in the debates, Dragomir Stoynev from the BSP emphasized that we have already reduced carbon emissions by 48% compared to 1990, as have most countries in our region. You can't take into account a base year of 2019 and ask for a 40% reduction by 2025, because that means reducing carbon emissions by another 40%.

All MPs agreed to start negotiations for the best possible conditions for the energy sector

In the low-carbon economy section, the proposal is to convert national RES storage infrastructure to batteries for individuals and businesses with a 50% grant. The report also suggests that 50% of geothermal energy development in the sector be diverted to energy efficiency for single-family and residential building stock with 50% grant funding. Dobrev emphasized that this is how the money for geothermal energy is preserved, because it will engage the business to participate with at least as much more funds. If there is a possibility that this may not happen in two months, we will reconsider this proposal, but only on the condition that the preservation of coal plants remains a priority. I want to emphasize that we are not changing the goals, but investing in batteries in geothermal energy, the approach is changing, instead of the state buying state batteries and buying, 50 by 50 grant schemes are offered for business, the goals remain the same, the investment becomes twice as much big. For geothermal energy, BGN 343 million is planned for a state enterprise, half of these funds are a grant scheme of BGN 171 million, so the public investment plus private will be just as much and even more, added Dobrev.

A tough time to negotiate

The question is to what extent renegotiation is possible. These points will be difficult to renegotiate, emphasized Kiril Petkov, the chairman of Continuing the Change. The war has changed the situation in the region, in the new situation we are ready to reconsider the decision, especially if it will lead to success, Petkov stressed. We continue the change suggests that the renegotiation be done together with Romania and Greece. Thus, success would be guaranteed given the changed geopolitical situation and the war in Ukraine, Petkov added.

More comments and debates have been linked to the latest proposals, but in an unprecedented move MPs have rallied around the preservation of coal plants. Let's reduce consumption, more funds for energy efficiency, aimed at single-family and multi-family residential buildings, comments Zhecho Stankov. It is important that the carbon reduction target remains. But the target set in the plan to reduce emissions by 40% by 2025 was extremely ambitious and unrealistic.

Krasimir Valchev from GERB emphasized that it is important from now on to have a government and a parliament that will stand up for the policies so that the decision of the National Assembly is respected and implemented. We have to be convincing enough before the European Commission.

The Ministry of Energy is about to make the energy transition strategy by years, but none of them can be done in an ambitious transition within three years, he added.

Everyone welcomed the unprecedented decision that united the MPs, and Vazrazhdane pointed out the important role of MP Iskra Mihailova several times. She herself emphasized that she was glad that everyone supported a decision that they had been fighting for for months.

This enthusiasm that we will make this decision today means nothing and the chance of this happening is minimal, didn't we know that six months ago, commented Alexander Nenkov from GERB. Iskra Mihailova commented that months ago it was impossible as it was impossible for all to unite. But the ball was passed again that the Revival had insisted on a completely new plan, which really was impossible. Mihailova countered that this was the original text, which was subsequently supplemented.

The problem is that instead of drawing resources from this plan it turns out that it can weigh us down like a millstone and all this happened with the efforts of all the MPs.

The original plan called for a gradual and phased phase-out of coal plants by 2030 and the decommissioning was irreversible, yet a chance of a 40% reduction in emissions was given, which did not oblige the plants to be closed. Going forward, it is important to maintain investments, increase investments, make new investments in greening. At the table with the European Commission, we must put on the table the introduction of energy efficiency, RES, accelerated investments in a low-carbon economy and energy storage, because otherwise we will not be able to achieve the closure of the thermal power plant by 2038, commented Vladislav Panev from Democratic Bulgaria, part of the Green Movement.

The problem is that many decisions have been delayed for a long time over the years, because the closure of coal plants for non-compliance with air standards has been talked about since 2009, and it never happened. The debates, which lasted more than an hour and a half, did not pass without pre-election rhetoric.

Voting has started first on the points to reformulate funds from national infrastructure for battery storage to investments in batteries for businesses and citizens, as well as to redirect part of the funds for geothermal energy to grant schemes for energy efficiency and RES or Ministerial Obligation Decision council to change the Plan for recovery and sustainability in the energy sector - item II, item 4, item 4.1 and item 5. 208 MPs voted, 159 for, 48 abstained and 1 against. But immediately a debate began as to why “Continue the change” voted to abstain, and the MP who voted against the “Continue the change” emphasized that he did not want more funds for passive energy efficiency, but for reclamation of the grounds in Stara Zagora and innovations, development of new jobs.

A 30-minute break was given before the final vote. Before the final vote on the decision, deputies went to the protest of the trade unions in defense of the country's energy security.

The text of the decision to change the Plan was adopted unanimously with 185 votes in favour. The text on coal plants as point 1 was supported by 180 people's representatives from all political forces and three abstained.

We remind you that more than a year ago, the deputies decided to preserve nuclear energy as a key industry for our country. Since this decision, no real consequences for the energy sector have been achieved so far and nuclear projects are still only on paper.

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