Bulgaria launches first and largest EFW project

The Bulgarian government has just approved the installation of a RDF (refuse-derived fuel) combustion waste facility at the Thermal Power Plant Sofia in the nation's capital. The installation of RDF technology in the Sofia Thermal Power Plant was hotly debated in recent years even though experts had hailed RDF as one of the most effective systems for waste management currently available. The approved installation is the third phase of a waste management system in Sofia. The two previous phases included a waste pit and compost site, and a facility for mechanical and biological treatment.  
The RDF installation is the last stage of a massive waste treatment system for Bulgaria, and will be used for the production of thermal and electrical energy.

The installation will cost approximately BGN 370 million with part of the budget coming from a EUR 67 m loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which the Sofia Thermal Power Plant has pledged to repay within a term of 30 years. (Bulgaria is currently awaiting approval from the European Commission for this financing.)

The RDF combustion installation will provide free fuel for the Thermal Power Plant, which is expected to bring savings of 65 million cubic meters of natural gas and as much as EUR 18 m annually. The project received a positive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) in 2015, a Detailed Development Plan in 2016 and the green light for a EUR 67 m loan in 2017. 

The Municipal Council of Sofia Municipality approved this loan in May 2018. Construction is set to begin on November 21, but possible obstacles remain including several claims regarding ecological, technological and financial issues pertaining to the development. One action concerns the refusal to provide a full set of documentation on the project to watchdog NGOs. Another claim questions the positive Environmental Impact Assessment from 2015, and the third questions the Municipal Council's approval of the EIB loan.

In addition, public debate continues over environmental issues such as the fine dust particles and emissions the facility is expected to give off. Concern has also been expressed about the Sofia Thermal Power Plant's ability to repay the EIB loan since the plant is already operating at a loss.

For more information on this eAlert, please contact: Kostadin Sirleshtov and Raya Maneva.