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European Commission backs Bulgarian waste management project to achieve energy efficiency

The European Commission has approved an investment of over 77 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to upgrade the integrated waste management system in the city of Sofia, Bulgaria. The measure is expected to help Bulgaria to achieve its energy-efficiency targets and contribute to the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions.

The Commission’s decision the back the project is in line with the EU’s targets set out in its Energy Efficiency Directive by enabling a primary energy saving of 46.5 per cent compared to a scenario in which heat and electricity would be produced separately. The incineration facility will give the citizens of the Bulgarian capital better access to affordable energy while protecting the environment.

“Reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, recover and dispose: this investment is in line with the EU’s Waste Framework Directive and it’s essential for a modern, efficient and sustainable waste management system in Sofia,” commented Elisa Ferreira, Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms.

The investment will support the construction of a high-efficient plant for the simultaneous production of heat and electricity, using fuel derived from unrecyclable municipal waste. The applied advanced technology to produce clean energy is also known as co-generation. Cogeneration plants can achieve energy efficiency levels of around 90 per cent, significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions and offering an effective way to supply energy to remote areas without the need for expensive grid infrastructure.

It is estimated that once constructed, the plant will produce heat and electricity with a capacity of approximately 55 megawatts (MW) of heat and 19 MW of electricity, which translates into heat for 40,000 people and electricity for 30,000 people. The project foresees burning 180,000 tonnes of municipal waste per year. The local authority counts on savings between 15 to 18 million euro on an annual scale as the new resource would purportedly substitute 65 million cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas. The ambition is for operations to begin in 2023.

This project is the final part of a three-phase waste management programme to reduce the environmental impact of waste, improve recycling and stimulate investment in waste management in Sofia. Bulgaria has received a total of 204 million euro from the European Regional Development Fund over two programming periods – 2007-2013 and 2014-2020.

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