The Bulgarian Black Sea territorial waters carry significant decarbonization potential for the country’s energy system, for the low-carbon transformation of the industrial sector, and possibilities for economic development of coastal communities. By following the U.K. leadership in the development of the offshore wind energy sector, the Bulgarian government could change the national energy policy framework to unlock the country’s enormous potential.
This was one of the main conclusions of the online policy conference Unlocking the Offshore Wind Energy Potential in the Black Sea co-organized by CSD and the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Bulgaria. The event gathered industry experts, former diplomats, business representatives, policy officials and members of international financial institutions.
Mariya Trifonova, Research Fellow at the Economic Program presented the findings of CSD’s latest report Wind Power Generation in Bulgaria. Assessment of the Black Sea Offshore Potential, the first technical and economic assessment of the Bulgarian Exclusive Economic Zone in the Black Sea based on country-specific data.
Rob Dixon, the British Ambassador to Bulgaria, opened the discussion by briefly sharing the remarkable success story of the offshore energy sector in the United Kingdom. As a result of many politically difficult decisions, long-term investments, and comprehensive market reforms, the offshore energy industry promises to become a major driver of carbon emission reductions in the UK and Europe. Giles Dickson, Chief Executive Officer of the European wind association, WindEurope, underlined the role of revenue stabilization mechanisms such as the “Contract for Difference” scheme to ensure the project viability for offshore wind projects.
Catherine Barber, UK’s former Deputy Head of Mission in Bulgaria and currently a leading team member of the Energy and Industrial Strategy Department of the British Government argued that the auctioning model ensures a sharp cut in the investment costs and speeds up the commercialization of offshore wind technologies. She pointed out that the emergence of a high number of distributed power producers in combination with increased electrification of different economic process would require the timely modernization and upgrade of the power transmission grid.
Daniel McGrail stressed the need for an early planning of the transmission system and port infrastructure. He emphasized the need for extensive collaboration with more experienced partners in the demonstration phase but suggested that the speed of the sectoral expansion would depend on the country’s readiness to expand infrastructural capabilities, well-aligned and clear intermediate and long-term deployment targets, as well as early planning regarding the coexistence with other maritime sectors. Georgios Gkiaouris, the SEE regional head for energy projects at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, noted that the European financial institutions are always keen on financing offshore wind energy projects when governments set clear targets, establish balanced, functioning regulatory frameworks, and ensure competitive industrial development.