Energy Board Lowers Transparency
Key solutions to the future of Bulgaria’s energy continue to be taken in the dark. Only three months ago, the caretaker deputy PM Ekaterina Zaharieva convinced the broad public that the creation of the energy board will contribute to the implementation of one of the most important tasks of the interim government - the stabilization of the sector. She also insisted that the formation of the structure in question will follow the policy openness and transparency of the Cabinet Bliznashki.
It turned out, however, that this policy does not apply to the debates. Journalists can only guess what’s really going on behind the tightly closed doors of Granite Hall in the Council of Ministers. Secret to the public remain heated debates that are held during the meetings, and that topics affecting all users.
Yet with the regulations for the operation of the power board media were stripped of the opportunity to attend the meetings. At the same time, at the discretion of the President, they can include representatives of NGOs and experts. Indeed, the portal of the advisory boards of government do publish information on the agenda of the meetings, part of the discussed documents and submitted proposals. There is even a record of the meetings. But these are not the complete stenographic records from which one can see in particular who proposed what and how it was accepted by the other participants. By the selective editing the impression remains that everything has proceeded in a spirit of friendship and full understanding.
Only this week it became clear that at the last meeting of the energy board on September 23 the proposal for a detailed study of the price of electricity and the cost of the companies has created tension. Association of Industrial Capital in Bulgaria (BICA) have asked to analyze the way in which electricity price formation is done, what capital expenditure has each of the participant in the chain energy - production facilities - trade - dispatching and network - distribution - users. The organization quite reasonably indicated that they will thus be able to distinguish between the interests of participants, and subsequently make the conclusions and recommendations for areas of impact and target policies. Against this proposal objected Chairman of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, Svetla Todorova, representative of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, Ivanka Dilovska, and economist Krassen Stanchev.
For this dispute the general public would have not been informed if it had not been for BICA, who two days later, on 25 September, explicitly urged Deputy Zaharieva their proposals to be included in the record in exactly the way they have been exposed to the energy board.
Ultimately, their statements were published as appendices to the report. Otherwise, the main document describing the meeting, reflected the case quite modestly: “The board members discussed in detail the issues that need to be analyzed, namely: risk analysis for the energy sector proposed by the representative of BICA five analytical tasks to the thematic working group “Power.” And this is just as they say - short and vague. Typical for the Bulgarian officialdom. In contrast, far more attention was paid to the fact that Katarina Zaharieva met members of the organization acquainted with the high grade of the European Commission given to the creation and the launch of the Energy Board of the Committee, as well as with its readiness to send experts to participate in the board’s work, and to train local people from the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission and the Ministry of Economy and Energy in Brussels.
What are administrators from the board hiding? They should be aware of the principles of work followed by committees of the National Assembly. They also call experts in a given field to discuss bills, but the doors are open to the media, who can listen to the debates, without interfering with them.
It is worth reminding something else. During the previous caretaker cabinet a Public Council under the Ministry of Economy and Energy was operational. The format, similar to the current energy board was also wide and it led to many lively discussions about the future of the sector. They not only invited journalists, but the meetings were broadcast on the internet and anyone could follow them. A number of key decisions were taken about the declassification of all contracts in the energy sector and the removal of trade secrets. The current caretaker government actions, though, compromised the energy board and its credibility logically eroded. Who may benefit from this is quite another question.