The move comes after the Bulgarian Wind Energy Association (BGWEA) and other renewable-energy trade associations warned that many projects appeared not to have met with all legal requirements and, thus, may never be built.
BGWEA executive director Sebastian Noethlichs stated the association requested the government review of projects in order to ensure a level playing field for all investors in the sector. "If these (non-compliant) projects are in the pipeline, even if they ultimately don't get built, they are blocking the way for other, legitimate projects," said Noethlichs.
The Bulgarian wind energy sector has stalled, with just 15MW of new capacity coming online during the first half of 2011. Official figures for the second half have yet to be released, but indications suggest that there was very little new capacity.
A preliminary assessment conducted by BGWEA assessed about 1GW of planned wind projects that have been granted grid contracts. This revealed 700MW that apparently did not comply with one or more legal conditions. In some cases, required documentation was missing and, in others, inaccurate or misleading documentation had been submitted to authorities. A number of projects have failed to submit detailed zoning plans, which form part of a pre-construction agreement once the environmental-impact assessment process has been completed and a project is approaching construction.
Compliance concerns are not unique to the wind-energy sector. Bulgaria's solar photovoltaic (PV) trade association has identified similar problems. Representatives from both BGWEA and the PV industry are expected to be included in the government's working group.
Establishment of the working group comes at a time when securing investment for new wind farms in Bulgaria has become increasingly difficult. An amendment to an already-damaging 2011 renewable-energy law is expected to be approved shortly by the Bulgarian government. It will push back further the date from which a feed-in tariff (FIT) can be secured - requiring a 72-hour operational test to have been conducted first - which will make it more difficult for developers to finalise project financing.
Prior to the 2011 law, a FIT was granted once a preliminary grid-connection contract had been signed. More stringent rules on FIT allocation were necessary, according to the Bulgarian government, because of an excessive number of grid-connection agreements. Although a significant number of these projects now appear to be illegitimate, the government has ignored BGWEA's request to delay amending the 2011 law until the working group's investigation is completed.