PRODUCTION OF HYDROELECTRICITY TO BE DELAYED
The sluggish process of issuing permission for construction of micro-hydroelectric power stations (with up to 10 megawatt capacity) may threaten the relations between two ministries - the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Ecology. Lyutskan Lyutskanov, member of the parliament from the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII), intervened in the dispute last week. He said that the lack of coordination between the two ministries was the main reason why some 700 applications for construction of small hydroelectric power stations are aging in the files.The refusal of the ecological ministry to permit utilisation of the water resources sends away the investors, Kostadinka Todorova, Head of the Energy Strategy Direction at the Ministry of Energy, explained. There are numerous examples, she added, but the most drastic ones are registered along the river valleys of Iskar, Struma and Mesta, where the hydro potential has not been utilised at all. Experts of the Ministry of Ecology justified the refusal saying there was no special plan for construction of hydroelectric power stations, and also by pointing at some disturbances in the landscape. The reasons for the sluggish procedure are in the nine documents needed to get the permission - from the working project to the opinion of the local electricity distributor. The ecological ministry explains that it is most difficult to get permission for the use of water from the regional hydraulic directions. That is the main reason why only one application for construction of a small power station has been approved since the beginning of 2003. The applications are elaborately reviewed because candidates should be inspected thoroughly. In fact, the owner of such a station can be sure he would make good profit, but only in the future. The new energy bill (which is already in parliament) stipulates that the National Electricity Company (NEC) buy energy from the small hydroelectric power stations at preferential prices. They will be calculated as part of the highest energy purchase price plus an amount fixed by the State Commission for Energy Regulation (SCER). The commission raised the electricity purchase price from hydroelectric stations to BGN0.80 per megawatt from May 1, 2003.The new energy bill has not entered the plenary hall yet, but the NMSII MPs Dimitar Peichev, Ilcho Duganov, Lyutskan Dalakchiev, Dimcho Dimchev, and Anely Tchobanova already wrote and put forward draft amendments. The MPs propose price preferences in the field of hydroenergy to be valid only for small power stations (with up to 10 megawatt capacity) and not for the big ones. They explain that the building of big hydroelectric power stations change seriously the environment and they should not be considered ecological producers of electricity (according to the European requirements, preferences are only valid for producers of ecological energy). According to the law-makers, the amendments would stimulate the other ecological producers of electric power.The importance of small hydroelectric stations will grow as the time comes for Bulgaria to join the European Union. According to the plans of the union, by 2010 22% of the electricity should be produced by renewable energy resources. Bulgaria is required to make the production of ecological energy 8% of its total energy balance by 2010.According to experts, small hydroelectric power stations with up to 10 megawatt capacity are the most perspective ones in Bulgaria, because the construction of installations that catch wind and geothermal energy is too expensive. Currently, small hydroelectric stations in the country have 63 megawatt capacity. From now on, they will not need a licence to produce electric power.