Bulgaria limits PV capacity


STORY UPDATED AND REPLACED ON JULY 4, 2013, due to facual error and additional information

CEZ Distribution Bulgaria, an electricity distribution company, has announced that starting June 10 it will limit the maximum working capacity of all PV and wind plants on the territory it services by 40%.

The plants are ordered to limit their power production daily fromn10 am to 5 pm.

CEZ operates in western Bulgaria and covers an area of 40,000 square kilometers, including the districts of Sofia-city, Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Kyustendil, Pernik, Pleven, Lovech, Vratsa, Montana and Vidin.

State-owned energy holding group EAD, which operates Bulgaria’s electric power system and oversees the country’s energy market, ordered the move, according to CEZ. EAD says the action was necessary due to an imbalance between the production and consumption of electricity.

Imposing restrictions on the generation of renewable power plants in Bulgaria is not new. EAD also imposed similar restrictions on the production of energy by PV plants and wind farms earlier this year.

To defend its decision, EAD said that Bulgaria's electricity exports in the first quarter of 2013 had decreased by 22.5% year-on-year, while domestic consumption of electricity had fallen by more than 13%.

Meanwhile, Sofia news agency Novinite reported that Bulgarian renewable electricity producers have requested a meeting with the minister of economy and energy to present their side of the story and discuss what they described as questionable tactics by EAD.

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A recent report by the European Commission confirmed Bulgaria’s grid power overload and predicted Bulgarian electricity consumption would decrease in the next 10 years due to population decline.

The Commission has advised a reexamination of power plants conditions and closure of plants that are least efficient and most damaging to the environment. It has also recommended measures to facilitate market liberalization, increase transparency, establish the independence of the price regulatory commission and increase power exports.

A similar report by the World Bank says that current power plants will be in excess even in 2030. The World Bank report has also blamed the lack of transparency in the management of state-owned companies and an insufficiently independent regulator to control the entire energy system.

Both the European Commission and the World Bank have called for more support for low-income households that are unable to cope with energy costs and have proposed further financial assistance and funding for heating assistance programs. The World Bank report states that 61% of Bulgarian households cannot afford energy and that only 12% benefited from social assistance to cover heating costs.

High energy costs were among the issues that led to the street protests in early 2013 that toppled the former government on Feb. 20, leading to early elections on May 12.

The Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition, the country’s antitrust authority, submitted last week to the Bulgarian parliament a series of amendments to the Bulgarian Energy Act to tackle the "dictatorship of the energy monopolies" and protect electricity consumers.

Edited by Edgar Meza

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