Bulgaria threat to 40% of wind, PV

Bulgaria’s renewables industry has voiced alarm at government proposals to suspend operations at about 40% of its wind and solar installations, in order to balance a power system which it claims is in danger of instability due to a huge excess of capacity.

Interim energy minister Asen Vasilev claims the system in the country “is very sick, riddled by inefficiency, overcapacity and overproduction”.

Vasilev says under the plan, the operations of about 40% of wind farms and solar plants would be stopped temporarily, due to their alleged failure to send real-time production data to the grid operator.

Producers that complied with the law would be reconnected.

Bulgaria has about 1GW of solar and 670MW of wind power out of 12GW of total installed power generation capacity.

Vasilev says he has asked the anti-monopoly watchdog in the country to examine whether power producers and traders were playing by market rules, and called for an audit of big state electricity companies.

The renewables industry voiced its surprise at the decision to impose the suspensions. “If they go ahead with this, it will be a final, catastrophic blow to the renewable energy producers,” says Mariana Yaneva, deputy executive director of the Bulgarian Wind Energy Association.

Yaneva tells Recharge that renewables are not in any way “threatening the stability of the system” as the minister had suggested. “Wind and solar together make up about 4-5% of the total annual electricity production in the country. If real-time data transfer was the problem, it could be solved in two to three months, once there is agreement on what equipment needs to be installed,” she says.

She says there was no indication from the ministry as to how long any temporary shutdowns of renewables capacity in the country are expected to last.

The Bulgarian Photovoltaic Association (BPA) claims the real reason for the measures is the unusually low electricity consumption in the country, and a drop in the export of electricity in the last few weeks.

“That is why we do not think that the real problem for the ministry is the sending of production data to the grid operators,” Rumen Petrov of the BPA tells Recharge.

“Additionally we do not accept that the renewables producers are violating the law,” he adds.

The renewables sector is still recovering from the regulator’s imposition in September of grid access fees that effectively cut 10-40% of green energy producers’ income. Earlier this month a Bulgarian court ruled against the fees in a case brought by three solar developers – the first of many such appeals.

Concern over energy prices is a central issue in Bulgarian politics. Protests over state corruption and high prices charged by energy monopolies toppled the centre-right government in February.

The unrest could erupt again if the interim government fails to show it is working to boost transparency and lower the power costs to consumers in the EU's poorest country.