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FACTDROP: US urges Bulgaria to end energy dependence on Russia


US urges Bulgaria to end energy dependence on Russia

President Rosen Plevneliev
Πηγή: Reuters
Feb 9 2012

* Bulgaria should diversify in nuclear, gas supply-US envoy

* Needs to persue renewable energy, unconventional sources

The United States urged Bulgaria on Thursday to work harder to diversify its energy sources to put an end to its energy dependence on Russia.

U.S. special envoy for Eurasian Energy, Richard Morningstar, said the European Union country should seek diversification in nuclear energy, natural gas supplies and also focus on renewable and unconventional energy sources to boost energy security.

"We discussed how important it is for Bulgaria to have transparency in the energy sector as well as diversification," he said after meeting with President Rosen Plevneliev.

"That diversification includes in the nuclear area, and in the area of gas supply, as well as renewables and other areas and unconventional areas as well," he said.

The Balkan country gets over 95 percent of its natural gas needs from Russia's Gazrpom. Its only operational oil refinery, which provides more than 70 percent of the petrol in the country, is fully owned by Russia's LUKOIL.

Its Kozloduy's nuclear plant has two 1,000 megawatt Soviet-made reactors and Sofia is in talks with Russia to build a new, 2,000 MW nuclear power plant in the Danube River town of Belene.

Washington has long expressed its concerns that a new Russian-made nuclear plant will lock Bulgaria's dependence on Moscow, which may use its energy might for political pressure.

The centre-right government has been delaying decision on the Belene plant since 2009, and Finance Minister Simeon Djankov said recently a decision whether or not to go ahead with the project is to be delayed again for the second half of the year.

Analysts say the recent U.S. concerns over Bulgaria's energy stance arose after parliament banned exploration for shale gas over environmental concerns.

The decision also effectively revoked U.S. Chevron's permit to carry out test for the unconventional gas in the northeastern part of the country.

The issue was also been discussed during the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said then the ban will be effective until leading experts can show tangible proof the shale gas drilling method, fracking, is not harmful to the environment.

Morningstar pledged the United States will present to Bulgaria the newest studies on shale gas, and U.S. experience in shale gas extracting, the energy ministry said in a statement.

The Balkan country has also approved laws to limit the fast growth of wind and solar energy power parks, saying they will increase power prices in the EU's poorest member state and overwhelm its ageing power grid.

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