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Bulgaria forced to rethink emissions reduction plan after nuclear pull-out

26 Apr 2012 23:12:33 | edcm

Bulgaria must revise its energy and climate change strategies to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets, according to the country's environment ministry, after it pulled out of the 2GW Belene nuclear power plant project last month.

The Balkan country is planning to spend around Bulgarian lev (lv) 14bn (€7bn) between now and 2020 to decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by almost 56% compared with 1988 levels, the government's third national action plan against climate changes shows.

One of the strategies included in the plan is to increase the share of nuclear electricity in the country's generation mix to 45% by 2020. However, after the country pulled out of the 2GW Belene nuclear project (see sister publication EDEM 28 March 2012), that figure is now in doubt.

"We are currently discussing new strategies to solve this problem, as Belene was [not just] part of the government action plan but also of Bulgaria's energy strategy," Rayna Angelova, state expert for climate change at Bulgaria's environment ministry, told ICIS this week.

Other strategies

Apart from boosting nuclear generation, Bulgaria plans to implement cleaner coal-fired electricity production and to decrease the CO2-intensity of its energy mix, which stands at 1.2 tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e)/MWh.

"The [EU Emissions Trading System (ETS)] and the competition in the energy markets provide incentives to move towards low-emission technologies and fuels," the plan said.

It also highlighted gas-fired generation as a desirable alternative to coal-fired generation. According to the plan, every 100MW of natural gas generation replacing coal-fired generation would result in an annual carbon saving of 450,000 tCO2e.

Developing renewable generation is another strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Bulgaria, the action plan said.

Wind power production rose by more than 22% year on year in 2011, generating 681.4GWh, according to information form Bulgaria's energy ministry. Electricity produced by solar power plants also increased rapidly, to 101GWh in 2011, compared with 15GWh in 2010.

In the longer term, Bulgaria plans to bring 5.3GW of renewable capacity on line by 2014. This would be enough to reach the 16% renewable share by 2020 in the plan.

In addition, the industrial and transport sectors should cut emissions by 76% and 56%, respectively, by 2020, compared with 1988, the plan showed.

Financing cleaner generation

Bulgaria's plan does omit exactly how the country will finance its transition to a lower-carbon energy mix. The EU ETS is designed, among other things, to incentivise investment in new clean technology and help countries meet 2020 reduction targets.

However, the bearish trend that has plagued EU allowances (EUAs) for much of phase II (2008-2012), has raised concerns that the price is now too low to help finance such a shift in energy infrastructure and technology.

The EUA benchmark was at €7.15/tCO2e early this week, down from €8.40/tCO2e on 1 December 2011, a decline of 15%. As a result, some have called for the EU to prop up the price in phase III (2013-2020) to help finance clean energy transitions in the region. But others have voiced strong objection to such a move. IP

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