Author: Desislava Georgieva
Published On: 27/01/2022

Countries that remain in the tail end of the energy transition will have to confront high electricity prices, economic competitiveness and pressure to reform in the short term because of the intensifying climate crisis. That’s according to Richard Moore of Ember, an energy think tank. For now, those countries in the European Union are Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic. They are named in a new report that has come out after Germany announced it is setting a new target to phase out coal in 2030, rather than 2038 as before.

Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have emerged as the three countries that will produce 95% of the European Union’s planned coal power after 2030, the report said. It follows an analysis of national climate and energy plans, which are due to be updated to the EU’s increased climate target of 55% emissions reductions by 2030.

The unfortunate leader in coal use for power generation in 2030 will be Poland at 63%, followed by the Czech Republic at 18% and Bulgaria at 14%. The rest of Europe is on track for a phased transition to renewable energy as early as this decade, the paper said.

While most European countries are looking to phase out coal by 2030 and reform their economies, Central European countries and Bulgaria are looking to delay the inevitable, energy experts say.

Bulgaria’s caretaker government announced it was phasing out coal in 2038, but this act was driven more by a desire for the policy of inaction to continue than setting a clear goal and vision for reform, said Meglena Antonova of Greenpeace Bulgaria. In her view, the phasing out of coal-fired power plants over the next decade and the rapid uptake of non-burning energy alternatives will determine whether the transition beyond coal will come in the form of a price, social and environmental shock, or whether it will rest on a clear plan and scientific data.

EU coal-fired electricity will fall by 83% between 2015 and 2030, from 705 TWh to 118 TWh. However, while the rest of the EU’s 27 member states are firmly intent on reducing coal production by 99% between 2015 and 2030, Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria propose that their combined efforts will result in a drop of just 42%, the report said.

The tendency for the end dates for exiting coal dependence to be shortened in time is not isolated to Germany. Across the EU, plans continue to accelerate. In the less than two years since EU countries submitted their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), planned coal-fired power generation in 2030 in the EU has been cut by more than half (58%). This reduction will prevent an additional 89 to 152 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from entering the atmosphere in 2030. The amount is equivalent to removing between 53 and 90 million cars from the road.

Stopping the use of coal should not come at the expense of increasing dependence on another fossil fuel, such as natural gas, says Radostina Slavkova of For the Earth. Unlike Western Europe, thanks to the low connectivity of households to the gas grid, Bulgaria is able to make the leap to clean heating and electricity generation based on renewable energy sources and storage technologies, Slavkova is adamant.