Bulgaria Debates Important Changes to Climate Laws

Windfarm and solar panels side by side
Bulgaria Debates Important Changes to Climate Laws

As Bulgaria passes legislation for the green recovery and just transition, a number of questions arise. Will the country try to become an energy hub in the Balkans or will it rely on ever cheaper electricity from renewable energy (RE) produced in neighboring countries that have already successfully invested in them? Will Bulgaria increase its national security and self-reliance through investing in RE, or will it depend entirely on imported fuels and increasingly unprofitable coal?

Several NGOs in Bulgaria are proposing significant changes to the Renewable Energy Act (REA), the Climate Change Mitigation Act (CCA), and related policies. 

The parliament has adopted some changes to the Renewable Energy Act at first reading and a call for proposals is now underway.

The following proposals have been made to the legislators:

  • Easing the processes for installing RE capacities for citizens;
  • Regulating the concepts of "generating consumer" and "energy community" (energy cooperative);
  • Promoting cooperatives in the production and sale of electricity to the grid from REs produced in households and energy communities;
  • Removing the multiple administrative steps required for installing RE by increasing efficiency between institutions; and
  • Simplifying procedures and clear deadlines for grid connection for domestic and community generators.

Suggestions were also given on how to invest in green energy without harming nature and biodiversity. In this regard, suggestions were made to prioritize areas for renewable energy development, taking into account the following:

  • A simplified environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure for priority areas, which need to be designated to avoid biodiversity loss, or risk protected areas or NARURA 2000 areas; and
  • A focus on installations on the roofs of social infrastructures, administrative and residential buildings, and making use of built-up land, rather than untouched land, for the installation of RE.

Decarbonization is already delivering benefits for EU economies. Bulgaria has huge opportunities for rapid economic modernization, energy independence, decentralization of energy, a fair energy transition, cleaner settlements and, as a consequence of all this, opportunities for higher standards and a better quality of life. 

The Minister of Environment and Water, Julian Popov, who is also chair of the advisory board for the European Green Deal, joined the public debate and confirmed that The Climate Change Mitigation Act is a very important law because it creates investment predictability. The Climate Change Act creates a clear picture of national emissions reductions. He stated: “Even though there has been a Climate Act since 2008, if Bulgaria had had a real law with a carbon budget, what is happening now with the Bulgarian coal plants would not have happened at all. In fact, this whole region would have been developed as an advanced industrial region based on renewable energy and serving the energy transition.”

There is consensus among experts in Bulgaria that the two laws must regulate definitions of “prosumer,” “energy communities” and “energy poverty,” as well as support the creation of new jobs and innovations in the energy sector, and support protected areas and biodiversity conservation.

This story was produced with support from Internews' Earth Journalism Network. It was first published on Bulgarian National Radio on June 15, 2023. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Banner Image: Solar panels and windfarms / Credit: WWF Bulgaria.

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