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12 December 2019 10 min read

Study calls for inclusion of cleaner-burning natural gas in Bulgarian energy and climate plan, ahead of EU deadline

In the wake of new emissions targets proposed by the European Commission (1), the Bulgarian government urgently needs a strategy to transition away from coal, as the 31st December deadline looms for all EU member states to submit their National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP). According to a new study from independent consultancy Baringa and Shell, Bulgaria can learn from its EU neighbours by adopting cleaner-burning natural gas to effectively reduce Co2 emissions, a component that they believe is currently being underplayed in Bulgaria’s current energy mix.

The study comes as the European Commission proposes a new target to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the EU by 50-55% by 2030 under its new Green Deal. In its draft NECP, submitted in December 2018, Bulgaria was one of the few countries not to actively pursue an ambitious path for the phase-out of coal, something which the European Commission was critical of in its initial feedback. In light of this feedback, Shell and Baringa Partners have assessed the draft NECPs of 14 other EU countries (2) which have had a reliance on coal in their energy mix, to see how Bulgaria compares.

Erik Rakhou, Senior Manager at Baringa Partners, comments: “The past year has marked a landmark shift in public attitudes towards climate change and the pressure on governments around the world to take more decisive action has been increasing. With EU countries set to submit their final National Energy and Climate Plans by the 31st December 2019, it’s more important than ever that countries determine a roadmap towards a zero-carbon future.

“From our analysis of NECPs, we can see that other EU countries similar to Bulgaria have included the phase-out of coal as a key part of their planning, and a number of countries including Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, and Italy will also use gas to transition to zero carbon. Both these aspects were absent from the first draft of Bulgaria’s NECP.”

Since drafting its original NECP, the Bulgarian Government has been working with stakeholders to address the comments made by the Commission, including the transitional role natural gas can play in helping to decarbonise across the power, heating, transport and industrial sectors. (3)

Erik Rakhou continues: “Bulgaria is well placed for a natural gas transition: the country has seen, and is in the process of significant infrastructure investments over the past couple of years which will position it as a gas hub providing regional energy security and increased access to competitive gas, and Bulgaria’s coal plants are located mostly close to the gas infrastructure, which would make coal-to-gas switching easier. This builds on the role of natural gas as a transition fuel.

“Our report finds that the transition from coal to natural gas and other renewable energy sources, will not only have environmental impacts, but also social and economic benefits for the Bulgarian people. In previous research published in July this year, we found that, as well as a 46 million tonne reduction of CO2 emissions, there are €2.4bn of societal benefits, including reductions in costs to the healthcare system, associated with an accelerated transition from coal to gas.”

Kamelia Slaveykova, Country Chair of Shell Bulgaria, adds: “In this new study, which was co-funded by Shell, we see that many EU countries have made long-term plans for their transition from coal towards lower-carbon energy sources. Natural gas emits between 45% and 55% lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal when used to generate electricity, according to IEA data. Compared to coal-fired power plants, modern natural gas-fired power plants emit less than one-tenth of the pollutants. With cooperation from all stakeholders, the Bulgarian government can learn from these solutions to accelerate and improve its own energy transition plan. Shell is a major producer and supplier of natural gas and we regularly engage with governments around the world about the transition to a lower carbon energy system.”

To get the plan across the finish line, both Shell and Baringa believe working with stakeholders will be key.

Erik Rakhou concludes: “The most important thing with getting the NECP right is to ensure collaboration with all relevant stakeholders. Trade unions, investors, energy stakeholders and government need to work together to find a solution that works for everyone. Working with trade unions has been an essential part of the process in other EU states, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss our research findings with trade union leaders in Bulgaria.”



Notes to Editors

For more information please contact:

Tabitha Adams / Jen Evans

020 7089 2080


About the report

The full analysis of the NECPs is available to download at:

The full report published in July, Energy Transition in Bulgaria is available to download at:    


About Baringa Partners

Baringa Partners is an independent business and technology consultancy. We help businesses run more effectively, navigate industry shifts and reach new markets. We use our industry insights, ideas and pragmatism to help each client improve their business. Collaboration is central to our strategy and culture ensuring we attract the brightest and the best. And it's why clients love working with us.

Baringa launched in 2000 and now has over 700 members of staff and more than 65 partners across our five practice areas of Energy and Resources, Financial Services, Products and Services, and Government and Public Sector. These practices are supported by cross-sector teams focused on Customer & Digital; Finance, Risk and Compliance; People Excellence; Supply Chain and Procurement; Data, Analytics and AI; Intelligent Automation and Operations Excellence; and Technology Transformation. We operate globally and have offices in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Australia, US, and the Middle East.

Baringa Partners have been voted as the leading management consulting firm for the second year in the Financial Times' UK Leading Management Consultants in the category energy, utilities and the environment. We have been in the Top 10 for the last 10 years in the small, medium, as well as large category in the UK Best Workplaces™ list by Great Place to Work®. We are a Top 50 for Women employer, and are recognised by Best Employers for Race.


(1) Communication on The European Green Deal

(2) The 14 EU countries reviewed were: Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Ireland, Finland, Italy and Portugal

(3) Coal currently represents around half of total electricity generation in Bulgaria, with other sources including nuclear and hydropower

Energy transition in Bulgaria