ECONOMY

Bulgarian electricity exports to Greece rise

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria announced yesterday it had launched electricity exports to neighboring Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to make up for halted supplies to Turkey and keep its leading power export position in the region. Bulgaria’s power export monopoly NETC said in a statement it had also signed sale contracts with London-based EFT and Britain’s trading house Sempra, and was in sale talks with other Balkan countries but did not name them. NETC expects Bulgaria’s total electricity exports to rise from 200 megawatts this month to 680 MW next month and 800 MW in July, a spokeswoman for the company said. She said the sale contracts with Greece and EFT would expire in September, the deal with FYROM would expire in April 2004 and the one with Sempra would last to end-2003. Last month, Turkey halted power purchases from Bulgaria, saying Sofia had failed to press ahead with two infrastructure projects that were part of a bilateral energy deal. Industry officials say that the suspension of power supplies to Turkey has dealt a blow to Sofia as it could cost it its number one power export position in the Balkan region and would undermine its plans to build a second nuclear power plant. Bulgaria used to export 3.5-4.0 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of power to Turkey a year, more than half of its total annual exports, under a 10-year energy deal, signed in 1998. Electricity exports, which last year totaled some 6.2-6.3 billion kWh, are an important source of revenue for Bulgaria – one of the poorest European Union candidate countries. Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Milko Kovachev and Regional Development Minister Valentin Tesrovski are due to travel to Ankara on May 29 to try to persuade Turkey to resume power purchases from its neighbor. Turkey has said the reason to suspend power purchases was that Bulgaria had delayed a high-profile hydropower project and the construction of a highway stretch to the border with Turkey. Under the 1998 energy agreement, in return for Bulgaria’s power supplies to Turkey, Turkish firms should participate in the two projects, in deadlock for nearly three years.