Although Bulgaria is not very rich in fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, it has very well developed energy sector which is of crucial importance for the Balkans and the whole South Eastern Europe. Nuclear power produces 36% of Bulgaria's power. Bulgaria is a major producer and exporter of electricity in the region and plays an important role in the energy balance on the Balkans. The country's strategic geographical location makes it a major hub for transit and distribution of oil and gas from Russia to Western Europe and other Balkan states.
To improve the corporate management and supervision of the energy sector, on 13 February 2008 the Government of Bulgaria decided to set up a state-owned energy holding company Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD, a successor of the state-owned 'Neft i Gas' (Oil and Gas) established in 1973. The holding company's business composes of subsidiaries operating in different energy sectors: electricity: Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Maritsa East 2 thermal power plant, NEK EAD and Elektroenergien sistemen operator (ESO); natural gas: Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz; coal mining: Mini Maritsa Iztok (Maritsa East mines). The state holds a 100% stake in the holding company.
The country has extensive deposits of coal but these are mostly lignite. The reserves of lignite coal are estimated to 4.5 billion tons and they are located in the Maritsa Iztok Coal Basin (around 70%), Sofia Coal Basin and Lom coalfield. The reserves of brown coal are 800 million tons with major deposits near Pernik, Bobov Dol and Cherno More mines. The reserves of anthracite are slightly more than 1.2 billion tons but more than 95% of these are located in the Dobruja Coal Basin at depth of some 1.5 km and at this stage cannot be exploited. There are several minor oil and gas deposits in Northern Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is believed to have extensive natural gas resources but due to a successful campaign against hydraulic fracturing does not, as of 2014, permit exploration or exploitation of this possibility.
The production of electricity was 38.07 billion kWh in 2006. For comparison, Romania, which has a population nearly three times larger than that of Bulgaria, produced 51.7 billion kWh in the same year. In production per capita, the country is in fourth place in Eastern Europe.
Bulgaria has the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant with six reactors, out of which only two are online (four reactors were taken off-line in 2004 and 2007), with a combined capacity of 3,760 MW and covering 36% of country's energy demand.
Thermal power plants are also of high importance with most of the capacity concentrated in the Maritsa Iztok Complex. The largest plants are:
There is a €1.4 billion project for an additional 670 MW for the latter and €900 million for additional 600 MW for "Maritsa Iztok 3".
Other minor TPPs are: "Republika" in Pernik - 180 MW, "Sofia"-130 MW, "Sofia Iztok"-120 MW, "Plovdiv"-60 MW, "Pleven"-40 MW, "Pernik"-30 MW, "Sliven"-30 MW and others.
In November 2014 the Maritsa Iztok 2 lignite-fired power station was ranked as the industrial facility that is causing the highest damage costs to health and the environment in Bulgaria and the entire European Union by the European Environment Agency.
Due to the limited hydro-potential of the country (excluding the Danube), the importance of hydro power is not so big. There are currently 87 hydro power plants with a combined capacity of 1,980 MW, most of them being located in the southern and south-western mountainous parts of Bulgaria. The largest hydro cascades are: "Belmeken-Sestrimo"-700 MW, "Dospat-Vacha"-670 MW, "Batashki Vodnosilov Pat"-220 MW. Important HPPs on the Arda river are: "Kardzhali"-106 MW; "Ivailovgrad" - 104 MW and "Studen Kladenets" - 60 MW. There is €65 million project for their modernization.
Three major hydroelectric power plants are under construction: "Gorna Arda" - 160 MW; "Sreden Iskar" – 93 MW, €60 million; "Tsankov Kamak" – 90 MW, €220 million.
Large-scale prospects for wind energy development have spurred the construction of numerous wind farms, making Bulgaria one of the fastest-growing wind energy producers in the world. However, the country has added very little new wind energy capacity since 2012, as evidenced by the EWEA statistical data below.
|EU and Bulgaria wind energy capacity (MW)|
Several major energy transportation routes are to be passed through Bulgaria. The Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline and the Burgas-Vlore pipeline are oil transportation projects through Bulgaria to bypass Turkish straits in transportation of Russian and Caspian oil from the Black Sea to the Merranean Sea.
Bulgaria is a transit country for Russian natural gas to Turkey, Greece and Macedonia. Natural gas transit projects through Bulgaria are the South Stream pipeline and the Nabucco pipeline. The South Stream pipeline, cancelled as of 2014, would have transported Russian natural across the Black Sea from the Russian coast of Beregoyava to Burgas from where it would have continued to the north-west to Central Europe and to the south-west to Greece and Italy. The Nabucco pipeline would transport Caspian and Middle East gas through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria to Central Europe.
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