Energy storage will be an important part of Bulgaria’s Energy Strategy. This was stated by the Minister of Energy of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, during a round table on the topic “Innovations in energy storage – a key to a sustainable energy transition”, organized by the Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (AIKB). As part of the energy transition, capacities of the order of 12 TWh are to be replaced by fossil fuels. Their replacement will have to be carried out by renewable energy sources, biofuels, new nuclear power, and this cannot be sustainable without energy storage systems, explained AIKB chairman Vasil Velev. In this regard, he emphasized innovation. Professors Ivan Koprev and Ivan Kralov presented the innovations and possibilities of energy storage systems.
“The specific topic regarding energy storage is important for Bulgaria’s energy strategy. We are talking about a long-term energy strategy. I hasten to add that the development of such an energy strategy is a process, not a one-time act, not just the result of just one or two meetings,” the minister pointed out.
As he put it, “the task is to cover a much broader aspect than the usual focus on an electric power system, natural gas, or thermal power.” In his words, an energy strategy should also include “issues with liquid fuels”, for example. Minister Radev stated that the “basic structure” of the energy strategy is already a fact, but there is still a lot of work to be done on the various constituent parts – electricity production, natural gas, thermal energy, fuels and mobility.
“What we seem to have a consensus understanding of is what kind of energy we’re settling on in the long term.” It is about low-emission energy production with a marked emphasis on a combination of nuclear energy, as well as the development of energy based on renewable energy sources, using the hydro potential that the country has and this is in the “Generations” part. In the “Transmission” part, we are actively developing both the power transmission and distribution networks,” he said. The minister noted that investments should also be made with them, which, as he put it, “are foreseen this time in the context of the Modernization Fund”.
Development of cross-border capacity is also planned. Later, the Minister of Energy explained that it is about the connectivity of Bulgaria with our neighboring countries, but in accordance with their vision of development. For example, Greece is betting on natural gas in the energy transition, and as it became clear from his words, our country must anticipate the development of cross-border capacity in the energy transition, taking into account the particularities.
In the words of Minister Radev, in parallel with this, he is also committed to the active development of storage systems, an essential part of which are hydro facilities. In particular, it is also about increasing the capacity of PAVEC by building new capacities, as Bulgaria has the prerequisites for development in this area. It is about additional projects and the construction of a capacity of over 1,600 MW. According to the Minister of Energy, on a daily basis, this allows for an electricity storage capacity of between 30 and 40 thousand MWh. “Obviously, we are talking about a serious not just national, but also regional presence with such a project. This type of development, as he put it, “provides the backbone” for larger-scale construction of both solar and wind power. At the same time, it is not envisaged to limit the development of wind generator capacity only to onshore ones, but it is also betting on offshore – “potentially in the Black Sea”.
“The approach to gas systems is similar,” said the minister. Radev recalled the doubling of the capacity of the underground gas storage in Chiren. According to him, “there are opportunities to build additional capacity there. That is, not only until doubling it so far. The big challenge there is going to be expanding the underground capacity, because now they are working mainly on vertical drilling, which is not necessarily the best solution considering the characteristics of the land masses there,” he said.
“Regarding storage systems, when we talk about electricity, we are not limited to a specific technological solution. What we want to do as a team is to enable technology neutrality so that we leave the choice to the presumption of the relevant investors, the specific stakeholders.
“What is worth noting in macro terms are the following concepts: on the one hand, we will strongly hope to encourage individual consumers of electricity. Those with more serious base capacities should invest in energy storage systems,” said Radev, emphasizing demand management during peak hours. The idea, as it became clear from his words, is precisely in those hours when the demand is high, and the production from RES is less, precisely then “that these same industrial users then consume the (energy) stored with them, from the storage systems managed by them of electricity.
“This will lead to correspondingly lower, less pressure on demand during those hours.” This is not only a challenge, but also an excellent opportunity for the operator of the electricity system to meet the pressure resulting from the volatility of electricity generation from RES”, said the energy minister. In his words, this will lead accordingly to adequate reciprocal price signals and to “a relative relaxation in the extremes between prices of net electricity and this expensive late-night and early-night electricity.” In this regard, Minister Radev pointed out that there are already calculations of what the necessary capacity would be for the use of stored energy by industrial users. According to him, this has a corresponding advantage, which is that this type of activity will not mean that the owners of storage systems will be treated as operators.
“The advantage is also the fact that this type of activity will not be treated as operators. Because we will limit those industrial users who cannot sell their stored electricity. It is for own consumption, for own needs,” he pointed out.
The Minister of Energy also explained that, in addition to energy storage systems, work is also being done on the measure that remained under the Sustainability Plan, further promoting the development of RES capacity in Bulgaria. It is about the procedure that provides for the promotion of 1425 MW of RES. According to him, this procedure will be implemented in several phases. The first procedure, which is coming precisely as a result of the public discussion, will be for the most part addressed to relatively small investors, whose projects are in the range of 600 kilowatts and 4 megawatts of RES capacity. Accordingly, storage systems are sized at no less than 30% of this capacity and no more than 50% of it. Here again the goal is before the electricity meter to have internal balancing again. “Support will only be for the storage system. There is no support for the RES power itself, or as they say, there will be no financing of fins and panels,” said Minister Radev, adding that the aspiration is to achieve technological neutrality. “We will try to encourage participation in systems that imply no less than 200 cycles per year. Under this program, we envisage that co-financing will be limited through two channels – up to 50% of the amount of investment for storage, but not more than 550 thousand euros per MW”, the Minister of Energy also stated. He was adamant that further efforts would be made to secure research funding. This is one of the goals within the energy strategy,” he stated, being categorical that the state cannot abdicate from such activity.