This article is part of K Quarterly # Issue 1 / November-January 2017. Contact us for subscription options on [email protected]
Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Donchev is in charge of the whole economic portfolio of the government but his favorite beats are EU funds and energy policy. He was minister in charge of EU funds in Borissov’s previous government but the energy sector is his newly acquired passion.
Mr. Donchev is the main engine behind the idea to establish a gas hub in Bulgaria. He frequently talks about it and claims that he has the full support of Brussels. Most energy experts, however, are skeptical and see the European Commission endorsement of the gas hub plan as a way to push Bulgaria to make other reforms in its energy sector that are part of the EU agenda.
The Deputy Prime Minister is also supervising the nuclear power plant (NPP) Belene project and the planned construction of a new unit at Kozlodui NPP.
Sometimes, Mr. Donchev has bizarre ideas. During the negotiations on the measures that were taken last year to improve the National Electricity Company’s (NEK) cash flow (without them NEK would have gone bankrupt) he proposed an introduction of a Robin Hood tax equal to 20% of the revenues of energy companies. The tax, however, was supposed to be paid only by the renewable energy producers (RES). Later, a similar measure was adopted, with a 5% fee paid by all electricity producers. The proceeds from the fee are used to trim NEK’s tariff deficit (the difference between the price of electricity and the regulated consumer prices).
Most probably, Mr. Donchev bowed to pressure from industrial organizations which at that time were lobbying for drastic measures to cut energy prices. They raised the spectre of mass bankruptcies of industrial companies and proposed nationalization of RES and some other electricity producers.
Tomislav Donchev’s efforts might help bring some energy diversification for Bulgaria, but there is a risk that too big ambitions could lead to overinvestment in infrastructure that will not be actually needed.