A new report published today by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) says Bulgaria can save the lives of 3,600 people in Southeast Europe, including Türkiye, by breaking free from its coal dependence in the next decade. A transition to renewable energy until 2035 can save 10 billion euro in health costs, estimates the study, commissioned by Greenpeace – Bulgaria.
Particulate matter, which is known to affect literally every part of the human body, can remain in the atmosphere for up to two weeks. As a consequence, Bulgarian power plants contribute to increased pollutant exposure for millions of people. As air pollution knows no borders, it even reaches into neighbouring countries, including Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece, and Türkiye.
Figure 1. Annual mean PM2.5 due to air pollution from Bulgarian CFPPs in the present-day (2023) Note: simulated using the EMEP chemical-transport model.
Based on the latest science, the researchers calculate the health impacts from air pollution, originating from coal-fired power plants in Bulgaria. These impacts include premature deaths, hospital admissions, asthma symptoms, bronchitis in children and in adults, preterm births, low birth weight and postneonatal deaths; lost IQ and absences from work. Besides saving thousands of lives, a speedy transition to renewable energy in Bulgaria would avert significant damage to public health, while also delivering cheaper energy for citizens.
One of the biggest coal laggards in the EU, Bulgaria still sources around 40% of its electricity from low quality dust-rich lignite. Officially, the government promises to keep it this way until 2038. Many of the country’s power plants fail to meet contemporary pollutant requirements, among them the state-owned Maritsa Iztok 2, the biggest coal capacity in the Balkans. While other Balkan countries have taken decisive steps to transition to renewables, Bulgaria has wasted a decade of opportunities.
Desislava Mikova, Climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace - Bulgaria, said: “After years of denial by consecutive governments, Bulgaria needs to face the facts: burning coal is uneconomical and unhealthy, causing damage to people’s health in the country and beyond. The energy transition is already happening and it is high time for decision makers to catch up with the existing solutions – for life, health, a resilient economy, and a livable planet.”
Notes to editors
You can find the report here
The analysis looks at three different scenarios:
- In the first scenario, phase out is delayed until 2038 and all Bulgarian coal-fired power plants (electricity, combined heat and power (CHP), and industrial) maintain current power capacities throughout the time period.
- In the second scenario, coal-fired power plants follow an accelerated phase out where the capacity of electricity-only units (3,300 megawatts) decreases by 26% by 2026; by 41% by 2030; and by 100% by 2035, according to a government proposition.
- In the third scenario, the accelerated phase out is extended to include electricity-only and combined heat and power units, where the percentage reductions in the second scenario are applied to both types of units.
For the health and economic impact assessment, CREA has developed a detailed globally implementable health impact assessment framework based on the latest science. This framework includes as complete a set of health outcomes: premature deaths, cases of hospital admissions, asthma symptoms, bronchitis, preterm births and low birth weight, post neonatal mortality; lost IQ points, lost work days.
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Desislava Mikova, Climate and Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Bulgaria