Mr. Tzankov, the European Green Deal has gained great public support, but it turned out to be a huge challenge for the Bulgarian energy sector, especially for the Maritza East complex, including TPP AES Galabovo Maritza East 1. Various scenarios are announced in the public space, but which is the most realistic?
The Green Deal aims to reduce the carbon footprint in all areas of human activity, including power generation. However, it is very important to take into account the level at which each EU Member State starts when implementing it. In Bulgaria, more than 40% of electricity is produced from coal, which is the only local resource. This clearly shows that our country will need more time and a precise plan to replace these facilities in a way that ensures that the security of supply, stability of the electricity system, and people’s jobs are preserved.
If we discuss scenarios, I don’t think that there will be one scenario only to meet all needs – both economically and socially. A scheme of different approaches will likely be implemented to ensure that consumers in the country will have enough electricity to meet the needs of households and businesses while taking into account the social and economic influence of the Maritza East complex not only on the region of Stara Zagora but also on the economy of the country as a whole.
What has not been done so far, but is extremely important for TPP AES Galabovo Maritza East 1 as a power plant that is critical for the energy security of the country?
The business and the government institutions have always been in active dialogue, aimed at finding solutions that meet the needs of our energy system and help develop the sector sustainably. But there is still no integrated plan for how the change will happen and what Bulgaria’s energy mix will be in the future.
How do you think the energy transition should take place in such a sensitive region?
As I have already said, the transition in the Stara Zagora region has many dimensions – strategic, economic, social. For a long time, this region has attracted not only investments but also many highly qualified specialists working in the Bulgarian energy sector. Currently, Stara Zagora is among the most economically developed regions in Bulgaria. The transition should be made in a way that does not lead to a departure from the social and economic benefits achieved so far. For example, I will note that TPP AES Galabovo alone provides over 4,000 jobs directly and indirectly. And the entire Maritza East complex employs tens of thousands of workers.
In August and September this year we witnessed a drastic rise in electricity prices in the region and Europe. What are the conclusions that the European politicians must draw?
Yes, during these months we are really witnessing very high prices on the European energy exchanges. We need to be clear that electricity, like any other commodity and service, is affected by supply and demand, and they depend on many factors that have combined in recent months in a negative direction: in this period, Europe has experienced quite high temperatures, low production of renewable energy, exceptional increase in the prices of natural gas as well as carbon quotas. All this logically led to an increase in the price of electricity. This trend has affected all European countries and we can already see that the European Union is looking for options to support consumers affected by this growth. As these measures are still under discussion, it is difficult to say at this time which of them will be adopted and implemented. But one thing is certain: we need support for our industry and the vulnerable consumers!
As far as it is known, there are two visions outlined for the future of the power plants at the complex – one based on natural gas, the other – carbon capture and storage. How does AES Galabovo TPP – Maritza East 1 fit into them?
AES Galabovo TPP is the newest and most modern power plant in our country and has proven its role not only as one of the pillars of Bulgaria’s energy security but also as a carrier of innovative energy solutions that are at the level of the best global standards. We consider all possible solutions and evaluate their applicability, both from a technological and environmental, and business point of view. But the solution that would address all the challenges facing the complex is based on carbon capture and storage systems or the subsequent use of carbon dioxide.
Have you analyzed the benefits, risks, and impact of each of these alternatives and how they would fit into the ambitious program of the EC Fit for 55?
At this stage it is too early to talk about calculations to be considered final. We continue to work on all options and will look for the best possible solution.
What support from the state can you rely on? Would you insist on a specific approach?
How the transformation of the companies at the Maritza basin will be approached is still under discussion and I believe that the state and the business together will find the best working solution. One of the initiatives in which we participate with the colleagues from the Maritza East complex is funding research by the University of Mining and Geology, which will establish the possibilities for storage of carbon dioxide within the Maritza East complex. In addition, we have submitted a request for the inclusion of such a project in the Recovery and Resilience Plan of Bulgaria.
You have commented several times in public on the benefits of carbon capture and storage technology. Are you ready for its technological application at AES Galabovo Maritza East 1 TPP and what do you expect in the coming years?
As already mentioned, all possible technological solutions are assessed very carefully, including the technology for capturing and storing or subsequently using carbon dioxide. As for the expectations – we, at AES Bulgaria, will continue working for the stability of the Bulgarian energy system, applying the highest operational standards to ensure the supply of energy needed by all consumers in the country.