Банкеръ Weekly


Energy Games for MPs

Temporary and Permanent Parliamentary Committees on Energy just Tap Taxpayers’ Money

Absorbed in the problems of ruling the state, political quarrels with the opposition, the GERB party left energy sector rule itself.

Hardly anyone remembers now that at the beginning of April 2012 the Parliament created a temporary committee under the pretentious name for research, analysis and discussion of best practices and legislative decisions in connection with the regulation of activities of exploration and production of mineral resources and protecting the environment. The purpose was to find a way

out of an embarrassing situation

in which the government first authorized the U.S. company Chevron to investigate shale gas in northeastern Bulgaria, and then, after the protests of the people it revoked it and even imposed a moratorium on hydrofracking.

The thirteen MPs engaged in the important task, led by the new energy guru in GERB, Dian Chervenkondev, originally gave themselves two months to summarize the experience not only for the extraction of natural gas from shale, but also other minerals. For those two months, the Committee met just three times - once in April and two times in May And the only meaningful thing done for that time, was an amendment to an absurd text in the moratorium.

For two months the group were not enough for the group get to know the problem in more details and the issue of shale gas exploration in Parliament had to be studied for another four months. However, the contribution of the committee's members in this period were even more modest they had a single meeting on Sept. 19 with a single point, the discussion of their future work. However, in early October, the Parliament six months in which to explore the topic. It turned out that in the period the members of the committee will travel to Texas University, U.S.

Are these trips financed by taxpayers or by Chevron? If money comes from Chevron, your final report will be very dangerous, said independent MP George Terziiski.

In any case, is extremely curious what the so-called temporary committee may decide by the end of this Parliament.

The same pace can be seen

in the work of the committee

monitoring the activities of the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC). Let's face it - its creation was a whim of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov's who thus 'put in its place' the supposedly independent energy regulator for messing up the calculations over the appreciation of electricity from 1 July not by 10 but by 13 percent. In fact, the question whether the regulator is independent, has long been controversial, since in the past several years everybody witnessed appreciation bans the regulator made under blatant political pressure from one government or another. However, it is an undisputed fact that SEWRC employs the best energy prices experts that do not form as specialists over a day or two. So everyone can guess how much they were helped by the six MPs assigned to supervise them. Their first meeting was on October 25 (or nearly two months after the establishment of the structure) and it last

for exactly ... 10 minutes.

For this time they voted internal operating rules of the committee, Peter Dimitrov, a socialist MPO proposed external meetings to be held in the headquarters of CEZ, EON and EVN, but his proposal was blocked by the Chairman Dimitar Glavchev.

The next meeting was held a week later, and it invited the board of the Commission, led by Chairman Angel Semerdzhiev, and a bunch of representatives of non-governmental associations in energy, green energy producers, banks, law firms and employers' organizations. They discussed at length the problems associated with the production of green energy, but nothing tangible came out of the discussion. The meeting, however, seems to have drained the strengths of MPs in charged of the control and they did not convened for another time until the end of 2012. They gathered again only this Wednesday - January 9 - and sluggishly discussed gas and electricity prices.

Far more noise made two other ad hoc committees - to fight against high-level corruption and the one for checking of all data, facts and circumstances around the decisions and actions of the NPP Belene project from 2002 until the end of March 2012. First established in early October and led by Yane Yanev, it had ten meetings, five of which were devoted to energy, and the highlights of the programme, of course, was plant in Belene.

Not far behind was

the committee for hunting 'nuclear witches'

led by already mentioned Dian Chervenkondev. It also set off rather explosively - two meetings in October, six in November, then in December slowed down and held one and the last one was held in the beginning of January. Its gatherings were broadcast directly by the Bulgarian National Television and the National Radio and are to be remembered mostly with the extremely nervous dispute between former directors of NEC Lyubomir Velikov and Mardik Papazian and the Chief of the Public Financial Inspection Agency Violeta Petkova. The first two tirelessly argued that the agreement with Russia to build Belene from November 26, 2006 has all the attributes of a legal contract. Petkova was of the position that the document is not a contract and represents a violation of the Public Procurement Act.

What was also important was whether the committees led by Yanev and that of Chervenkondev will give a clear answer to the question whether there were cases of

abuse in this project.

However, this will not take place by January 27, the date of the referendum.


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