Bulgaria’s electricity grid operator ESO said on April 4 that it was asking all electricity producers in the country to limit their power generation. The company said that it was implementing the measure after exhausting all other available options to keep a balance between production and demand.
The measure was an emergency one, ESO said, but did not give further details how long it could be in effect.
ESO also said that it ordered the disconnection of renewable energy producers, in line with the Economy and Energy Ministry’s package announced on March 26. Under that plan, about 40 per cent of Bulgaria’s renewable energy producers are to be disconnected in order to prevent the electricity grid from overload.
Two of Bulgaria’s three private electricity distribution companies – EVN and CEZ – said that they have already started implementation of the ESO request.
Electricity generation at Bulgaria’s nuclear power station at Kozloduy and at coal-powered thermal plants would also be reduced. The only facilities not affected by the order to cut production were hydro-power plants.
“Many dams are full and will continue to fill for some time. This water needs to be put to use in order to avoid floods, which gives us no other option but to limit electricity production from other sources,” Deputy Economy Minister Bozhan Stoyanov told Focus news agency.
“Electricity consumption has decreased significantly, to a point that we are in the situation of having to make a difficult choice of which power plants and electricity producers to shut down,” he said.
The lower demand for electricity was due to warm weather, while at the same time state electricity utility NEK had contractual commitments to buy all the electricity produced by several large power plants, thus the need to reduce the production at other facilities, he said.
The measure, predictably, was not met with approval by the renewable energy producers, the ones that would be hit the most by the cuts. Bulgaria’s solar power association sent a letter to officials on April 3 that described ESO’s decision as “a gross breach of Bulgarian and European law” and also asked the Prosecutor-General’s office to stop the order.
Kozloduy nuclear power plant has already started lowering production, the plant’s executive director Valentin Nikolov told Nova Televizia, but if the cuts were in place long enough, it could require amendments to the annual maintenance and repairs schedule.
Coal miners, too, were affected by ESO’s orders, with about 3500 people on paid leave because of reduced demand. If the situation went on, the mining companies could be unable to pay their employees, labour unions said. The issue was scheduled to be discussed at an emergency meeting of mining industry officials with the Economy Ministry on April 4.