The Bulgarian government has signed off on the construction of a new combined heat and power plant (CHPP) near Sofia that will run on refused-derived fuel (RDF).
The project, which will generate 58 MW of heat and 20 MW of power, could receive support from the Operational Programme Environment (OPE), an EU-backed state initiative set up to spur investments in environmental protection. In a notice on November 21, the government said it had permitted OPE’s management to sign a contract on the project with municipal authorities and Toplofikatsiya Sofia, the city’s district heating provider. This approval should pave the way for construction to begin, the notice read.
The CHPP will serve as the third phase of a waste management system, which has been under development for years. This system also includes a waste pit and compost site and a plant for mechanical and biological treatment.
The station will be erected at the site of the Sofia thermal power plant (TPP), owned by Toplofikatsiya Sofia. It will require a total investment of 370 million lev (US$216 million), 67 million euros (US$76.1 million) of which will be covered by a 30-year loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).
Development of the plant has been held up by opposition from green groups over the volume of dust particles and emissions it is anticipated to give off. Critics have also questioned how the Sofia TPP, which is currently operating at a loss, will manage to pay back the EIB loan.
The project is also awaiting approval from the European Commission. Support from Brussels would allow it to tap up to 180 million lev (US$204.4 million) in EU funding under the OPE initiative. But the Commission could rule against the project over its impact on air quality. Earlier this month, the EU executive ordered Bulgaria to comply with a 2017 ruling by the EU Court of Justice regarding Sofia’s failure to limit PM10 concentration in the ambient air.
“While acknowledging that some progress has been made, the Commission is concerned by the slow pace of change and the lack of a co-ordinated approach between the environmental authorities and the other authorities concerned at national and local levels,” the Commission said.
Bulgaria could face financial sanctions if it is unable to address these complaints.