EU supports just climate transition in Bulgaria with a budget of €1.2 billion
Bulgaria will receive €1.2 billion from the Just Transition Fund (JTF), following the adoption of Bulgaria's Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs) by the European Commission today. The JTF will help deliver new jobs and economic activities for a just transition in the Bulgarian regions of Stara Zagora, Kyustendil and Pernik that face the biggest socio-economic challenges in phasing out coal and reducing CO2 emissions. It will also support Bulgaria to reach the EU 2030 climate and energy targets, and a climate-neutral economy by 2050.
Today's adoption of the TJTPs completes the approval of a total €11 billion Cohesion Policy investments (2021-2027) supporting a more competitive, cohesive and greener Bulgaria, leaving no one behind.
The JTF will help the transition from coal-based energy production and support reskilling and upskilling and the creation of new employment opportunities for over 15,000 workers in the three regions. Moreover, 2,190 hectares of land surface area will be rehabilitated to develop industrial areas and construct renewable energy source capacities. Energy efficiency measures in residential buildings focused on energy-poor households and vulnerable consumers will help tackle energy poverty. In addition, the JTF will support prosumers and help establish renewable energy communities. This will reduce energy consumption, lower electricity bills, and cut greenhouse gas emissions, on top of improving living conditions.
To ensure that the JTF responds to local needs, local sub-committees will be set up with JTF support in each of the three Bulgarian regions, directly involving a wide range of stakeholders for local representation and participation in the governance of the JTF.
In total, 96 regions from all EU Member States receive support from the Fund through 70 plans. With the adoption of the Bulgarian Territorial Just Transition Plans, the programming of JTF in the EU has been completed, and efforts now focus on implementation.
Economic diversification in Stara Zagora
In the region of Stara Zagora, which hosts coal mines and four thermal power plants, EU funding will support the region's citizens in the transition to a green economy with new job opportunities, including across ten satellite municipalities of the Sliven, Yambol and Haskovo regions, where part of the labour force resides.
The JTF, together with the European Social Fund Plus, will develop the mapping of the skills of the employees in power plants and coal mines as well as of the persons indirectly affected, such as family members. This crucial information will feed into the JTF employment measures aimed to reskill and upskill, career counsel and develop entrepreneurial skills.
The Just Transition Fund will also be channelled to degraded sites in line with the ‘polluter pays' principle to prepare them for alternative economic activities and a shift to green energy, such as those related to photovoltaic parks, pilot projects for virtual power plants, industrial parks for clean technologies, and hydrogen-based value chains.
Finally, the fund will support the diversification of the local economy by investing in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and in research and development (R&D) related to the circular and climate-neutral economy.
Supporting job creation in Kyustendil
In the Kyustendil region, where coal phasing-out started two decades ago, the JTF will also support the reskilling and upskilling of workers and offer assistance to jobseekers. The measures will particularly benefit disadvantaged groups and young people.
SMEs will be supported to put up renewable energy installations and focus will be put on the decarbonisation of the energy sector. The creation of industrial parks with clean technology solutions will provide a suitable environment for investors. In addition, the funding will help Kyustendil extend the use of its significant geothermal energy resources.
Boosting the socio-economic development of Pernik
The region of Pernik, which neighbours Kyustendil and is located in the proximity of the capital Sofia, will also benefit from the Just Transition Fund. By 2030, around 1,000 alternative jobs will be needed and JTF will contribute to addressing this challenge.
JTF will support SMEs focused on R&D, design and installation of photovoltaic panels, the production of biogas, as well as pilot projects for the production and storage of renewable hydrogen and the deployment of renewables.
The fund will further develop the Pernik Industrial and Logistics Area and create an R&D centre focusing on industrial design and a material science centre.
The three territories were identified during negotiations between the Bulgarian authorities and the Commission of the 2021-2027 Partnership Agreement and the associated Programme Development of Regions. The TJTPs identify the challenges and development needs in each territory and the objectives to be met by 2030. They also identify the planned actions with specific governance mechanisms.
The Partnership Agreement with Bulgaria was approved in July 2022.
The approval of the TJTPs opens the door also to dedicated funding under the other two pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism (JTM): a just transition scheme under InvestEU and a Public Sector Loan Facility for Just Transition that combines Commission grants with European Investment Bank loans.
Local partners and all stakeholders can receive support and exchange best practices and experiences all across the EU via different projects and initiatives under the Just Transition Platform. JTP Groundwork supports eligible JTF regions in implementing their Territorial Just Transition Plans (TJTPs), by providing tailored technical assistance and advisory services. Programmes such as JTPeers Exchange and JTPeers Experts complement the available technical assistance.
Upon request by the Bulgarian Authorities, the Commission provided tailor-made technical expertise for the preparation of the Territorial Just Transition Plans of the concerned Bulgarian regions. The support was provided by the Technical Support Instrument.
The JTF EU budget contribution totals €19.2 billion. In combination with national co-financing, this will finance €25 billion in investments. With the remaining two pillars of the Just Transition Mechanism, the EU expects to mobilise €55 billion over the period 2021-2027 to finance investments and social measures in the regions most affected by the transition to a neutral climate economy.
Other EU instruments such as the Recovery and Resilience Facility will also help Bulgaria in its decarbonisation effort, for which further decarbonisation commitments made by Bulgaria will need to be implemented.