Rumen Ovcharov Slams BSP on Energy Price, Defends South Stream Bill

Energy | May 19, 2014, Monday // 12:04|  views

Rumen Ovcharov, Phoro by EPA/BGNES

Electricity price is considerably lower than what its real level should be, Bulgaria's former Economy Minister Rumen Ovcharov explained on Monday.

In a rare attack on his party, Ovcharov, who is still a member of the ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) but also Bulgaria's representative in Russian oil concern Lukoil, said deficits worth millions of BGN are being accumulated in the energy sector every year.

He told the private TV channel bTV that "populism" in the energy field, applied by holding prices down, would have to be paid back in the future, and the cost would then be significantly higher. 

Ovcharov however attributed the mounting debts of the National Electricity Company (NEK), which in his words were BGN 3.16 B (EUR 1.58 B) as of April, to the lack of a "functioning reactor" at the Belene Nuclear Power Plant, the construction of which was abandoned by the GERB government (2009-2013), and by its decision to bolster renewable energy capacities.

He also underscored these factors are causing liabilities of the state-owned electricity company to grow by some BGN 500 to 600 M a year.

Despite echoing the BSP's attacks against the previous government, he stressed that electricity distribution companies (EDCs) were not responsible for NEK's financial trouble and "populist attacks" against them could be dangerous.

The EDCs have been involved for weeks in a bitter dispute with the national energy regulator DKEVR over allegations of debts to NEK, which they vehemently refute. After last week's ruling of DKEVR, the foreign-based power distributors are also facing severe fines over violations which, regulator officials say, are not related to the debt.

Offering measures to tackle a possible surge in electricity bills, the former Economy Minister urged the government to change policies toward renewable energy producers, to carry out inspections on whether their capacities meet legal requirements and to re-negotiate the terms of their agreements with US power plants.

He also commented on the scandal which broke in mid-May after the Reformist bloc, a coalition of right parties, claimed it had received documents "proving" Gazprom was involved in changing Bulgarian legislation on the South Stream gas pipeline project.

"I don't see anything spectacular if a company building a project upon an inter-governmental agreement proposes texts facilitating the project," Ovcharov made clear.

Bulgaria's Parliament approved in April first-reading amendments that change the status of the offshore section of the South Stream so that it cannot be accessed by third countries (different than Bulgaria and Russia), thus breaking the rules of Europe's Third Energy Package.

The legislation has yet to be finally adopted, amid threats by the EU Commission that sanctions might follow its approval.

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Tags: Rumen Ovcharov, South stream, energy, National Electricity Company, NEK, Reformist Bloc, Gazprom, Third Energy Package, EDCs, DKEVR, renewable energy, BSP, GERB, Belene Nuclear Power Plant


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