Public Dialogue and Training for the energy transition of the Stara Zagora region

02 October 2020

The last days of September were marked by two important events for the transition of the region of Stara Zagora (Bulgaria) to low carbon economy.

On 28th of September 2020, a public dialogue – “The new energy mix” was co-organized by BSERC, SZEDA, and David Holding, respectively within TRACER, DeCarb (Interreg Europe), and GreenDC (Horizon 2020) projects.

The event took place in the city of Stara Zagora and in order to reach a wider audience, it was also broadcasted via the Facebook. Simultaneous translation and broadcasting through the Google Meet enabled the foreign project partners and experts to be part of the panels and discussions. The event gathered altogether more than 200 European and national experts, representatives of national and international organizations, science and business.

The forum was divided into 4 panels – all devoted to the transition to a low-carbon economy:

  • Economic alternatives after the gradual removal of intensive mining
  • Expected socio-economic impact of the gradual ceasing of the coal-dependent activities
  • The need of post-coal land recovery and possibilities to use the land after the seize of coal-mining
  • New energy mix

On the next day, 29th of September, 2020, BSERC organized a training, entitled “Opportunities to finance projects supporting the transition of the Stara Zagora region to a low-carbon economy”. The training was held in the Regional Library of Stara Zagora within the frameworks of the TRACER project.

The meeting was opened by Angel Nikolaev, Manager of BSERC, who briefed the participants about the project. The event then continued with a presentation by Mr. Slavtcho Neykov from the Institute for Energy Management about the Just Transition Fund and the territorial just transition plans. The topic was extremely interesting and provoked an extensive discussion among the participants. The next presentation, delivered by Ms. Borislava Gabrovska from European Investment Bank, was dedicated to the opportunities for municipalities to get EIB funding.

Dr. Rumyana Grozeva from SZEDA spoke about the challenges that the Stara Zagora region faces on the path to decarbonization, the importance of the development strategies and the readiness of local authorities, business and science to come with living project ideas that can be proposed for funding under the new fund. In the ensuing discussion, local authorities expressed a serious interest in working together and obtaining additional information. The importance of the topic was repeatedly emphasized and shared by all participants who agreed that more clarity on strategy at the national level will be useful for planning of specific measures in the region.

Experts from the Ministry of Environment and Water also joined the discussion and presented the priorities of the new Operational Programme “Environment” 2021-2027.

The conclusions derived from the two days’ discussions could be summarized as follows:

  • There is a need of clear and more precise information regarding the future plans for a just transition, including a timeframe for the region transition;
  • There is a necessity of strategic framework for the development of the energy sector of the region of Stara Zagora;
  • Local stakeholders should be actively involved in the initiatives and visions for the development of their region. Business, local authorities, and scientific community should collaborate closely;
  • Specific efforts should be focused on the social and economic impact of the transition, and its mitigation should become a fundamental priority.