November 12, 2009 / 4:21 PM / 8 years ago

Bulgaria coal plants face closure over EU norms

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria may be forced to shut down two units at its biggest coal-fired power plant of Maritsa East next year for failing to meet European Union environment standards, the environment ministry said on Thursday.

The 1,556-megawatt plant plans to finish the construction of facilities to reduce sulphur emissions and air pollution at the two units, 215 megawatts each, by November 2011 although the deadline set by Brussels was December 2007.

Earlier this year, Bulgaria’s new center-right government that won July election, shut down four generators of a total of 68 MW at a coal power plant in the western city of Pernik for failing to upgrade them to EU environmental norms.

“If we face the launch of a legal action (against the country by the European Commission over Maritsa East), we will have no other way out but act the way we did in Pernik,” Deputy Environment Minister Evdokia Maneva told a news conference.

A working group from the environment and the economy and energy ministries is analysing how the possible shutdown would affect the Balkan country’s energy balance and the possible financial losses.

After numerous delays, Bulgaria’s previous Socialist-led government contracted a consortium of Italy’s engineering company Idreco and China’s Insigma Technology to build desulphurisation installations at the two units.

The six remaining units at Maritsa East Two already have desulphurisation facilities.

Maritsa East Two produces about 17 percent of the power in the country. The plant is located in the Maritsa East lignite coal mining complex in southern Bulgaria, which generates 30 percent of its electricity.

U.S. company AES is now building a new 670 WM plant in the complex, while Italy’s Enel, which owns 73 percent in Maritsa East Three, last year finished unit upgrades bringing the plant’s capacity to 681 MW.

Bulgaria relies on coal for over 40 percent of its electricity, nuclear energy accounts for about 35 percent and the rest comes from natural gas and hydro power.

Reporting by Irina Ivanova

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