Bulgaria: protests against plans to phase out coal

The Bulgarian parliament decided at the end of September to phase out coal by 2038 - just in time to receive EU funds for the move away from fossil fuels. According to the plans, coal-fired power plants and coal mines will be gradually shut down and workers will receive compensation or be employed at a transitional state-run company. But miners and workers have been protesting for days now, blocking important motorways and demanding that the government resign.

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Duma (BG) /

Where else is the electricity supposed to come from?

Duma sides with the protesters:

“Twenty-seven thousand workers in the energy sector will lose their jobs, 4,277 megawatts of installed capacity will be shut down, and in return we get a paltry four billion leva [2.2 billion euros from the EU Regional Development Fund]. ... What redevelopment plans, what a just transition, what sustainability! This is a diabolical plan that will damage energy stability and the national interest. Shutting down coal-fired power plants will leave a hole in the energy balance. Who is going to fill it, and with what?”

e-vestnik (BG) /

Take the money before it's too late

Coal will be obsolete by 2026 at the latest, e-vestnik counters:

“The coal phase-out is coming anyway, because coal is too expensive. As soon as the electricity market has been liberalised and there is no longer a state monopoly [as of 1 January 2026], all electricity providers will run away from the expensive coal-fired power plants. And in the meantime we are supposed to miss out on the 4 billion so the state can continue to buy electricity at high prices to preserve jobs.”

Deutsche Welle (BG) /

Not viable without subsidies

The coal industry has gone from being a systemically relevant pillar to a burden on society, the Bulgarian service of Deutsche Welle also stresses:

“If the supporters of the coal industry want to leave it unchanged until 2038, the rest of the population will have to decide whether they are willing to pay a carbon tax for it. Because in 2025 the coal subsidies via CO2 emission certificates will end, which means that both the mines and the coal-fired power plants will gradually be shut down as the electricity they generate becomes too expensive. As an example, in 2022 certificates for more than 1.7 billion leva [870 million euros] were purchased in order to continue operating the country's largest thermal power plant, the state-owned Maritsa East 2 power plant.”