Bulgarian President Roumen Radev said on October 19 that he has vetoed amendments to the country’s Energy Act, passed by Parliament on October 5, which envision the liberalisation of the household consumers segment of the electricity market in 2026.
In his motives, Radev said that the transition period between the current state of affairs, in which electricity prices are fully regulated, and the full liberalisation of the segment is too short.
The bill sets a transition period from July 1 2024 to December 31 2025. During that time, energy poor households would receive state assistance for their electricity bills.
But the veto motives argued that once that period ends, Bulgarian households could face a sharp jump in electricity prices due to the “significant difference in prices” between the regulated and liberalised segments of the retail market.
He further called for lawmakers to expand the number of households receiving state aid for their electricity bills and allocate an additional 1.5 billion leva, or about 767 million euro, a year for such assistance.
Radev also opposed the bill’s provisions ending state electric utility NEK’s status as “public provider” and the “energy mix” pool, which sets the amounts of electricity NEK purchases from different producers for the household consumers segment.
That way, the “energy mix” directly impacts the electricity costs of households – in the past, it has been used to keep prices lower by mandating NEK to buy a larger amount of cheaper electricity from Kozloduy nuclear power plant.
More recently, the outgoing caretaker cabinet’s order earlier this year to include electricity produced by the state-owned Maritsa Iztok 2 coal power plant resulted in an increase in electricity prices for household consumers by an average of 4.37 per cent from July 1.
Radev said that ending both the “public provider” and the “energy mix” mechanisms could “end the production of electricity at Maritsa Iztok 2 and risk the operation of Mini Maritza-Iztok mines” as early as mid-2024.
Bulgaria’s constitution grants the head of state a limited power of veto, through enabling the President to return legislation to the National Assembly for further discussion.
The National Assembly may overturn the President’s veto through a simple majority vote or accept the veto and review the vetoed clauses. Since taking office in January 2017, Radev made liberal use of the power and this was his 33rd vetoed bill.
The National Assembly overturned the veto on all but five occasions – four times that the veto was accepted by MPs, including two earlier this year, and one instance where the government coalition at the time failed to muster the support needed to overturn it.
(Roumen Radev photo: president.bg)
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