Bulgaria’s energy ministry on Tuesday urged tighter controls and penalties for power companies as well as new rules on exports, to keep the country’s energy system from overheating as consumption drops.
“The energy system is very sick, riddled by inefficiency, overcapacity and overproduction,” caretaker Economy and Energy Minister Asen Vasilev told journalists in the wake of nationwide protests spawned by high energy prices.
Vasilev urged temporary shut-downs for all renewable energy producers who have breached safety regulations in the last nine months, and called for others to pay up if they failed to meet planned output.
Bulgaria saw a boom in renewable energy in the past few years due to a number of attractive incentives for producers, including long-term buy-out contracts and fixed preferential prices.
But 40 percent of wind farms and solar energy parks systematically fail to inform the grid operators of fluctuating output, causing safety risks, Vasilev said.
“They switch on and off without notice, creating a problem for the system that might make it blow up,” he added.
Other measures included limiting fraud at large industrial plants that generate energy on the side and sell it at higher prices while buying cheaper energy from the state.
In addition, Bulgaria should cut electricity transfer fee for exports and see how if it can boost exports to neighbouring Turkey, Vasilev suggested.
The measures were presented as a first step towards buttressing the system after low domestic consumption and slumping exports prompted a fall in generation capacity and temporary shutdowns at a number of coal-fired plants in the country, he said.
Further steps were however needed to boost efficiency and speed up a liberalisation of the energy market, an issue for which Bulgaria was referred to the EU Court of Justice in January, Vasilev said.
Domestic consumption and exports account for less than half of Bulgaria’s current production capacity of 12,000 megawatts, he added.
High electricity bills sparked weeks of rallies across Bulgaria in February that snowballed into wider discontent over poverty and corruption, forcing the right-wing government to resign.
To appease consumers, Bulgaria’s energy watchdog agreed to cut regulated electricity prices for households, sparking protests by foreign-owned distribution companies.