Energy connectivity in the context of the European energy market and the transformation of basic energy capacities

The coupling of nuclear power with renewable energy sources is a cornerstone in the green transition. This is a key issue for the improvement of energy connectivity and the transformation of base capacities – domestically, but also at the regional and European level. Bogomil Manchev, chairman of the Bulgarian Atomic Forum (Bulatom), shared his opinion on the decision during Green Week 2023 – the largest regional forum for green transformation, innovation, and tomorrow’s industries, organized by and 3E-news.

Nuclear energy shook off the fear and decided at the European and global level that it should play a major role in the basic regulation of the systems, said Bogomil Manchev. He was categorical: “We do not rule out, Bulatom meant, any way of obtaining energy – green energy, natural gas”. But he made a comparison: “When we remove from the equation hydrocarbons (coal), which we do not know how to deal with and the only solution is to remove them, against one installed megawatt that produces about 6000 MWh per year, you have to make 5 megawatts of solar, 4 megawatts of wind, you have to increase the grid two and a half times to carry (the energy)”.

Bulatom believes that Bulgaria should not bet on a change in electricity consumption until 2053 (about 37 million MWh for 2022), but should bet on energy efficiency “to start producing 1 megawatt hour more production”. But according to Manchev, electricity production must be doubled in order to be able to produce the necessary amount of hydrogen for transport and industry, for electric cars, which are increasing and with which emissions are reduced.

And where in all this is the question of energy connectivity through the prism of nuclear energy. It finds a place in the base with the new generations of reactors, which have the ability to regulate and participate in the system with up to 70% of their own power at a rate of 1 megawatt per minute, explained the head of Bulatom. At the same time, without poisoning the fuel and without disturbing its balance, he added.

In our electricity vision, which we presented to the 48th National Assembly, is that on the two sites – Kozloduy and Belene, when there are operating capacities there, large electrolyzer installations can be built, which, without reducing the unit’s power, produces hydrogen, as other energy sources can equally participate in the network. They participate equally in the network, but their price is zero and this is a disaster for investors, emphasized Bogomil Manchev.

What must be done?

Manchev listed some of the tasks facing improving connectivity:

  • to increase the capacity of the network two and a half times;
  • to produce the hydrogen to put in the gas pipelines (As Manchev explained in another of his statements, according to the EU requirement, natural gas must be mixed with 30% hydrogen by 2050; thus, as energy units, the power is preserved, because hydrogen is three times more – powered by a unit of natural gas);
  • to build a much greater transmission capacity (connectivity) of both the gas pipeline and the electricity grid between all neighboring countries. We have to transport a huge amount of energy, and the capacity of the networks is limited.

Manchev told about a project from 25 years ago by the French company EDF for a very large ring of thousands of kilometers, which starts from the northernmost point of Germany, passes through France, Italy, and South-Eastern Europe, and returns, with a voltage level of 1500 kilovolts, with the possibility for transmission of up to 5000 megawatts of active power. The difference is that today it is envisaged to build energy depots at many points along the way, which is a significant change to the project. And this would help the desired connectivity – when there is wind in the North Sea, to be able to carry the energy at least to the Czech Republic, to unload part of it in Southeast Europe. When we have a lot of sun, to be able to transport to the north, for example to Poland, which burns its coal, explained Manchev.

Nuclear power and connectivity

This is energy connectivity, Europe’s goal for the next 20-30 years. And in it, nuclear energy is at the base, everyone knows that it is already accepted as an equal participant in the green transition. Yes, there are problems with large capacities, the head of Bulatom admitted and explained: they are expensive to build a new nuclear power, it must meet all the rules, and political support and notification from the EU are necessary.

Bulgaria has a huge wealth that it has two nuclear sites. What capacities will be built on them is a decision of the government and politicians. We, the experts, must have our say, and deploy these capacities within 25 years, and the governments and parliaments will have to decide whether the Bulgarian state will participate as a 100% owner or the project will be based on the principle of public-private partnership, in which it ( the state) to have a leading role. This is essential to allow the private investor as much as possible to participate in projects for solar, wind, and electrolysis plants. And the large landfills, such as Pump-Storage Hydro Power Plant, are the responsibility of the state, concluded Bogomil Manchev.