As below-zero temperatures persisted across Bulgaria, peak-hour electricity consumption matched or beat the record set in February 2012 and was predicted to break all records of the past 20 years.
In February 2012, electricity consumption reached 7400 Megawatt hours, a figure surpassed both at 7pm on January 8 and at the same time on January 9, going by data from Bulgaria’s Electricity System Operator (ESO).
A January 8 report quoted the ESO as saying that consumption could exceed 7500 MWh. By the early morning of January 10 2017, consumption per hour was already higher than at the same time on previous recent days, according to information on the ESO website.
The ESO said that the system could withstand such loads and problems were not expected – though it warned consumers that they should expect to face higher electricity bills this month.
Since the heavy snowfalls and strong winds began to hit many parts of Bulgaria last week, many places in north-eastern Bulgaria were left without power, as electricity poles were brought down by snow, falling trees or branches.
By January 10, electricity had been restored to most places that had experienced power cuts. The main problem had been getting to difficult-to-reach remote settlements, with the military called in to assist emergency teams, providing all-terrain tracked vehicles.
National fire chief Nikolai Nikolov, speaking to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television on January 10, said that many accidents had been avoided due to the early closure of roads in Bulgaria as the winter weather deteriorated.
Nikolov said that in spite of the inconvenience to the public, the measure had been effective, while in other countries, fatalities had been caused by authorities reacting too slowly.
He said that on January 10, a severe situation in south-eastern Bulgaria was expected because of a sudden change in the weather.
Not only snow but also rain was expected. Should a predicted sharp fall in temperatures follow, infrastructure and the electricity network would be affected and it was possible that many settlements could be left without electricity.
Earlier, it emerged from a statement by Romanian energy minister Toma-Florin Petcu that on January 8, Bulgaria had asked Romania for assistance in electricity supply.
But Petcu was reported as saying that Romania had turned down the request because of the low temperatures and record energy consumption as Bulgaria’s northern neighbour faced its own severe winter weather situation.
The ESO confirmed to Bulgarian media that the request to Romania was in line with standard practice in difficult situations to ensure continued electricity supply.
On January 9, Bulgarian climatologist Georgi Rachev told BNT in an interview that the current low temperatures in the country had persisted for the longest time in the past 30 years.
Rachev said that the wind in north-eastern Bulgaria would subside, but a new Mediterranean cyclone was approaching, that would bring new snowfalls in eastern Bulgarian and the Rhodope mountains on January 10. This snowfall would continue until January 11, he said.
From January 11 to 15, temperatures would warm slightly over the rest of the country, but would drop again next week, not as severely as in recent days.
He said that good snowfalls could be expected in the coming winter months, which would provide good conditions for skiing in Bulgaria’s mountain resorts up to Easter.
But while Rachev had claimed that Bulgaria’s current temperatures had persisted for the longest period in the past 30 years, this notion was regarded with scorn by Anastasia Stoicheva of the Bulgarian Academy of Science’s weather department.
Stoicheva said that in 2012, there was also a long series of very cold days, and she offered several examples that showed that the current situation was not unique.
Stoicheva went on to say that she was “personally surprised” by the decisions to declare additional school holidays because of the cold winter weather.
“I personally was surprised that students had to stay home,” she said in an interview on January 10 with public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio.
“I have two children and wonder how you will catch this material skipped. Maybe it was really cold in the classrooms. I have no idea. But this decision surprised me, frankly, including Thursday when the weather during the day was mild,” Stoicheva said.
She said that on January 10, in some areas of Bulgaria the maximum temperatures would remain below zero degrees Celsius.
“This does not mean that the state should be shut down,” Stoicheva said.
On January 10, as the eastern parts of Bulgaria faced a “code orange” warning of dangerous weather because of snowfalls and strong winds, while the rest of the country faced the lesser potentially dangerous weather warning, schools in many parts of the country remained closed, including in Sofia and several other large cities.
The extensions of school holidays in Bulgaria were declared because of flu epidemics in parts of the country, and the forecasts of harsh weather.
In many places, including Sofia, schools are currently scheduled to resume classes on January 11.
(Photo: Petr Kovar/freeimages.com)