IME: Only 11 municipalities in the country do not produce renewable electricity

Energy / Bulgaria
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Author: Teodor Nedev

In the series "265 stories about the economy" this week, the Institute for Market Economy (IME) presents information on the installed renewable energy capacities in our country at the municipal level as of August 16, 2023. The source of the data is the Agency for Sustainable Energy Development (ASED), which publishes a detailed information on specific RES sites, their location and date of commissioning, as well as aggregated data by types of RES capacity. It is important to specify that the database only includes objects for which ASED has issued a guarantee of energy origin. The guarantee lasts for one year, and its purpose is to prove that a given volume of electricity traded on the market is produced from a renewable source. Accordingly, the data do not cover RES capacities for own use whose energy is not sold, as well as capacities that have been inactive for a long time and their operators have not applied for a guarantee of origin. In this article, we will focus on four main types of electricity from renewable sources – hydro, solar, wind and other sources, which include biogas, wood, black liquor, sewage treatment plant gas and landfill gas.

Currently, a total of 5,180 MW of RES capacities are installed and operating in our country. Hydropower plants have the largest share, with a total capacity of about 2,374 MW, followed by photovoltaics with 2,036 MW, wind with 707 MW and those using other sources with 63 MW. The periods in which the different RES capacities were installed are impressive. For example, the main part of the country's hydroelectric capacity was built before 2000. In the case of wind and photovoltaic capacities, two periods are observed - a first strong wave of both types of capacities in 2008-2012, as well as a second wave of solar energy after 2020. In the last three years, the large growth of photovoltaic capacities, which already approach the capacity of water plants.

The distribution of the installed RES capacities in our country is uneven, being mainly dictated by the necessary natural conditions for the operation of the respective type of plant. For example, hydroelectric plants are concentrated in mountainous areas where the topography allows the generation of energy through this technology. The municipalities with the most installed hydropower capacities are Belovo with 736.2 MW (where the PAVEC "Belmeken" is located, as well as the HPP "Sestrimo" and the HPP "Momina Klisura")[1], Krichim with 261 MW (where the PAVEC are located "Orpheus", as well as the Krichim, "Vacha - 1" and "Vacha - 2" power plants, and Devin (where the "Devin", "Tsankov Kamak" and "Teshel" power plants operate).

On the other hand, the municipalities with the most photovoltaic capacities are those that enjoy the most sunshine, such as in the Upper Thracian Plain region. The leaders in terms of installed photovoltaic capacity are the municipalities of Pazardzhik with 230 MW (near the local village of Apriltsi there is the largest operating solar park in the country - "Rial States 184 MWp"), Kaloyanovo with 129 MW (most of this capacity is concentrated in the large FTPP "Dulgo Pole" and "Dulgo Pole 2") and Stara Zagora with 113 MW (of which 100 MW is provided by the FTPP "Tera Sol").

Wind power plants are much more geographically concentrated, as expected they are located in windier areas such as the northern Black Sea and on the slopes of Stara Planina. The municipality with the most wind capacities is Kavarna with 399 MW (the large wind park "Sveti Nikola" is located there), Kazanlak with 72.5 MW and Suvorovo with 60 MW.

The technological features of the different types of RES plants largely determine their distribution throughout the country. For example, the construction of hydropower plants is practically impossible in places with a flat topography or where the necessary water basins for the purpose are not available. That is why there is not a single hydroelectric power plant in as many as 172 municipalities, located mainly in the regions of the Danube Plain, the Upper Thracian Plain and the Black Sea. The situation is similar with wind power plants, which can also operate only in windier parts of the country. Currently, only 28 municipalities have installed wind power. On the other hand, solar plants are far less demanding, given that large enough parts of the country receive enough sunlight to make their operation worthwhile. In total, 254 out of 265 municipalities have installed photovoltaic plants, and in as many as 129 municipalities they represent 100% of all available renewable capacity.

It is also interesting to look at how much renewable capacity per person falls in each municipality. On average, 0.80 kW[2] of renewable capacities are installed for each inhabitant of the country, and in 81 municipalities the installed RES capacity per person is higher. The highest results according to this indicator are marked precisely by the municipalities with large RES sites - Belovo (103 MW/person), Krichim (36 MW/person), Kavarna (31 MW/person) and Devin (25 MW/person). At the other pole of the distribution are the eleven municipalities that do not have any RES capacity. Territorially speaking, the most RES capacities per person fall in municipalities whose topography and climate are particularly suitable for the construction of hydro, wind and photovoltaic power plants, i.e. in the mountainous parts of the country, in the flat sunny parts of southern Bulgaria and along the northern Black Sea coast.

[1] In the municipality of Belovo is also located the large PAVET "Chaira", which, however, is not included in the database, as it is inactive and accordingly did not apply for a guarantee for the origin of energy.

[2] For comparison, if we take the country's gross electricity consumption for 2022 – 38.3 million MWh (source: ESA) – and divide it by the number of hours per year and the country's average annual population for the same year, per person fall by 0.68 kW, i.e. if renewable sources could work continuously, they would be sufficient to meet the energy needs of the country.

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