On 23 January 2023, the Bulgarian Ministry of Energy published its Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development of the Energy Sector of the Republic of Bulgaria, which reflects the national priorities and objectives for the development of the energy sector up to 2053 and addresses European policies and goals while considering the local specifics in the field of energy resources, production, transmission, and distribution of energy.
Developed by the Ministry through powers granted by the Energy Act, the document establishes the following main strategic priorities aimed at the development of the sector:
- Maintaining a secure, stable and reliable electricity system through sustainable use of local existing and new energy resources;
- Preserving the key role of energy production in the Bulgarian economy with a focus on foreign trading;
- Ensuring that Bulgaria remain a leader in the production, balancing and export of electricity in the region;
- Protecting national and energy security, including safeguarding the electricity supply chain;
- Promoting clean and low-emission energy; and
- Increasing energy efficiency.
The vision is based on an analysis of the national energy system, forecasts for energy demands at the national and EU levels, and realistic models for the development of energy production and consumption in accordance with the main guidelines and principles of European policies concerning renewables, energy efficiency and the mitigation of climate change.
An interesting statement in the strategy is the determination that reform calling for the drastic reduction of CO2 emissions from coal burning power plants by 2025 stipulated in the Recovery and Resilience Plan for Bulgaria is unrealistic, threatens national energy system stability and will be difficult to achieve in view of current high market prices. As a result, the strategy recommends the use of domestic coal resources by 2030 and their gradual reduction until decommissioning by 2038 since this will contribute to the preservation of energy and national security, and will maintain the country's role as a regional leader in the production and export of electricity.
Four new nuclear reactors are to be built to replace the decommissioned capacity. Two of the reactors are expected to be erected at the NPP Kozloduy site 2000 MW by 2045, and another at 2000 MW by 2052. An additional 2000 MW nuclear capacity reactor will be constructed in Belene by 2035/2040.
The strategic document also emphasises the development of new RES capacity: both photovoltaic and wind power plants (7 GW solar and 2 GW wind by 2030, 12 GW solar and 4 GW wind by 2050, and 1270 MW hydropower plants by 2050). Geothermal energy potential is foreseen as being most suitable for heating purposes.
A major milestone in the future development of the sector will be the production of hydrogen, which is expected to reduce and replace Bulgaria's dependence on natural gas imports.
Modernisation of nearly 2000 km of the electricity transmission network and its accompanying infrastructure is also recommended since this will help ensure sufficient capacity for connection and transmission, and will maintain Bulgaria’s key role in the region.
Finally, in line with recent regulatory amendments, it is also noteworthy that the strategic vision presented by the Ministry of Energy sees the development of storage capacity as a key element. The strategic vision foresees 600 MW in storage capacity to be developed by 2030 and 1.5 GW in total for seasonal storage to be introduced by 2050.
From a financial perspective, the total estimated value for the implementation of all the measures amounts to about EUR 46 billion.
According to the modelling used by the strategy's authors, the development scenario clearly reflects the trends, measures, and policies in the field of energy security, energy efficiency, the development of renewable sources and their integration into the common European energy market, and will guarantee that Bulgaria meets European goals for decarbonisation and increasing energy efficiency.
The published strategic vision will be presented to the Bulgarian National Assembly since it is an element of the energy strategy that the Ministry of Energy has develop with a horizon of 2050 in compliance with the provisions of the Bulgarian Energy Act.