Bulgaria's energy regulator will probably revoke the licences of the three power distributors operating in the country unless they comply with the law, prime minister Plamen Oresharski said on Wednesday.
As soon as the power distributors start doing business in line with the relevant provisions of the law, the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) will terminate the procedure for the revoking of their licences, a government statement quoted Oresharski as telling reporters, asked to comment on media reports that the regulator had come under political pressure to revoke the power distributors' licences on May 15.
Oresharski said he had never in any way exerted pressure on the energy regulator.
In April, SEWRC launched a procedure to revoke the licences of the power distribution units of Czech companies CEZ and Energo-Pro, and of Austria's EVN after it was notified by state-owned power utility NEK it was owed by the power distribution companies outstanding payments exceeding 347.6 million levs ($247 million/178 million euro) in total. The power distributors have said they owe debt-ridden NEK nothing, claiming that it had failed to pay them compensations for being obliged to buy electricity generated by wind and solar power installations.
The regulator's decision prompted European energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger to send last month a warning letter to Bulgaria's energy ministry in connection with the country's policy in the electricity sector. At the time, internet portal EurActiv quoted the commissioner's spokesperson, Sabine Berger, as saying that the letter expressed concern over SEWRC's decision to open procedures to revoke the licences of the three power distributors operating in Bulgaria. Oettinger's spokesperson also said that the energy regulator should act independently from the government and market interest, impartially and transparently, adding that disputes between energy companies are to be handled by the commercial courts in the first place.
Earlier on Wednesday Hans ten Berge, the secretary general of Eurelectric, the sector association representing the interests of the electricity industry at pan-European level, said delicensing the three power distribution companies operating in Bulgaria will not solve the problems in the country's energy sector.
“[By] taking licences away, putting somebody else in, you will not solve the basic problem,” ten Berge said after delivering a public lecture on Bulgaria's energy sector in Sofia. “And if you don’t solve the basic problem, [...] it will come back to you. [...] “It's not solved by replacing the regulator, it’s not solved by having different elections and different government, it’s not solved by different companies.”