Bulgarian regulator to rule on electricity distribution licences on April 28

Bulgaria’s State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) held a public hearing on April 7 in its proceedings to repeal the operating licences of the country’s three power distribution companies, but has postponed any decision until April 28 at the earliest.

The reason for the delay is new evidence presented by state electricity utility NEK concerning its commercial dispute with the three companies – owned by Austria’s EVN, as well as Czech CEZ and Energo-Pro.

NEK claims that it is owed 347 million leva and accuses the power distribution companies of unlawfully offsetting and failing to pay bills due for electricity. The electricity distribution firms, for their part, say that the amounts are owed by NEK as compensation for the mandatory purchase of electricity generated by renewable energy firms (which they are required to do by law), but NEK failed to pay, forcing the electricity distributors to withhold payments to NEK.

At the public hearing on April 7, executives from the three electricity distribution companies once again called for licence-repealing proceedings to be halted, accusing the regulator of interfering in a commercial dispute (and one that, as critics of the regulator have argued, SEWRC is to blame for, having failed to put in place a framework stipulating how NEK should compensate the electricity distribution companies).

The European Commission has made its concerns known as well by sending a letter to Bulgaria’s Economy Ministry, according to a report by Bulgarian news agency BTA, which quoted Sabine Berger, spokesperson for energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger.

Berger said that SEWRC’s proceedings appeared linked to a dispute between NEK and the three companies, which ought to find a solution in a court of law first, enforcing the usual proceedings of civil and commercial law, the BTA report said.

SEWRC’s public hearing on April 7 was attended by three ambassadors, including those of Austria and the Czech Republic, as well as representatives of three more embassies, reports in Bulgarian media said. At the same time, representatives of renewable energy producers associations were not allowed in, the reports said.

(Power-generating windmills at a wind farm in Kaliakra, Bulgaria. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)

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