Alessandro Moretto: 10 Years Since the Biggest Investment in the Bulgarian Energy Sector

Mr. Moretto the summer of 2019 marks 10 years from the completion of the rehabilitation and upgrade of ContourGlobal Maritsa Eats 3 TPP. In 2009 this was the biggest investment that had ever been made in the energy sector. Would you, please, remind our readers what the goal of the project was and the results that were achieved?

First, I would like to say that on the whole the investment in the power plant is the first large-scale private project in the electricity sector in Bulgaria launched in 2003. Indeed, this year we celebrate ten years since the completion of the extensive rehabilitation and upgrade, as a result of which ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP became the first thermal power plant on the Balkans operating in full compliance with the highest OHS and environmental standards.

When I arrived in Bulgaria the rehabilitation process had already started. It included full renovation (revamp), new high-tech flue-gas desulphurization equipment and environmental protection technologies (EPT). Maritsa East 3 TPP was first commissioned in 1981 with 4 operational units and total gross capacity of 840MW. The upgrade project was an investment of BGN 1.4 billion with an increase of generation capacities to 908 MW.

The rehabilitation of the power plant was part of the requirements to the Bulgarian Government for the country’s accession to the European Union. Bulgaria made a commitment to renovate its power generation capacities to comply with EU standards. In accordance to an economic research conducted on behalf of the original creditors as early as 2002, the plant’s rehabilitation project was evaluated as the most economically viable option for the Bulgarian energy sector. The Plant’s rehabilitation was evaluated as an optimum approach guaranteeing the security of electricity supply, use of local resources and compliance with European environmental standards as a prerequisite for Bulgaria’s accession to the EU. In the last 15 years more than BGN 1.4 billion has been invested to guarantee the reliable operation of the power plant and for environmental protection measures.

Owing to the large-scale investment ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP provides 10% of the annual power generation thus contributing to the energy security and independence of the country.

If we went back in time, we would see that in 2001 Bulgaria did not have the possibility to deliver the finances for a project of such large scale. The only option at that time was the long-term power purchase agreement necessary for resourcing finances from private investors and creditors.

 

Currently, how many are the own employees at ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP and the people employed by contractors for the power plant?

Our power plant employs some 500 people. We entirely rely on coal from the mines in Maritsa East complex and we are in close partnership with the local business which is a motor for the local economy and creates further indirect employment. Calculations show that ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP contributes to the maintenance of some 4,000 people and their families. Furthermore, we are a responsible employer. We managed to achieve more than 10 million working hours without LTIs (ed. Lost time incidents), an achievement which is considered an international benchmark for a secure and safe working environment.

 

After completion of the rehabilitation and construction of the flue-gas desulphurization plants ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP is fully compliant with the environmental requirements of the European Union and the Kyoto Protocol. The European Commission however, sets ever new requirements to coal-fired power plants. Will ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP manage to rise to challenges?

Yes, this is true. The EU requirements to coal-fired power plants become ever more stringent and we face increasing difficulties in working in such an environment. But as long as we are able to, we will continue to generate electricity because Bulgaria needs us. There is no alternative to the Maritsa East power plants – we generate some 45% of the electricity in the country. Also, we ensure the energy independence of Bulgaria because we use local resources and because our plants can operate “in hot and cold weather”. It must be noted that ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 is constantly improving its environment protection parameters. All four Units operate connected to flue-gas desulphurization plants, due to which we achieved a 20-fold reduction of SO2 emissions. Furthermore, we had a 10 times reduction of dust emissions and currently we capture 99.96% of fugitive dust. We were the first Bulgarian plant to introduce a sprinkler system to minimize dispersal of dust. We had built an early warning system constructed jointly with colleagues from neighbouring power plants. We recycle over 30% of the generated gypsum which is directed to the production of construction materials.

Ever since the completion of the large-scale rehabilitation project in 2009 we have not stopped investing in optimization of generation facilities and environmental measures. For example, the period 2012 – 2015 saw the investment of BGN 100 million for additional improvements by which the power plant successfully fulfilled the new strict requirements of the European Union for emissions of Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides which became effective in 2016.

 

ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 is an example of an investor in Bulgaria spending millions on their Corporate Social Responsibility Program. Apart from the plethora of donations to medical and cultural institutions in Stara Zagora District, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP created a “teen zone” in the Stara Zagora Regional Library last year, and in April this year – a new park “Energy” in Galabovo. What are the future CSR plans of the company for the region?

Currently, we are working jointly with the Stara Zagora Regional Library on another project. It is called “The Creators” and aims at creating a specially appointed working space in line with the STEAM concept (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics). This “area” will be accessible for all interested “creators” who want to experiment and combine science and technology with imagination and art. The role of our company in the project is to provide modern and specialized equipment and all necessary materials. In the last 8 years ContourGlobal Maritsa Eats 3 has invested BGN 4 mln in many social projects in Galabovo and Stara Zagora. These are sports centers, play areas, recreational area and office buildings in nearby villages to name but a few. Apart from investing in infrastructure projects, the company has been working on many projects in support of education, culture, preservation of local folk traditions, supporting disadvantaged people, sport and health care.

 

Mr. Moretto, although your name has been associated with ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP for years, very little is known about you. Would you tell our readers where you come from, when you bound your professional path to the energy industry and how long have you been living in Bulgaria?

I was born in the area of Venice, Italy. When I first arrived in Bulgaria, more than 15 years ago, Bulgarian hospitality and affability made a very pleasant impression on me. In the course of several years I was involved in projects in Slovakia and in 2017 I accepted the invitation to come back and take up the position of Plant Director of ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP.

If you had the choice, would you make the same choice and come to Bulgaria to forge your career Bulgaria?

My work in Bulgaria has enriched me both professionally and socially. People here bond strongly and it is very easy to feel part of the local community. This is one of the things that made me feel at home. The people I work with make me feel Bulgarian. I am happy that fortune brought me to Bulgaria.

 

Source: Starozagorski Novini, June 30th, 2019