Bulgaria and Romania plans for two new hydroelectric plants on the Danube River

Bulgaria and Romania are revealing their strategies for constructing two new hydroelectric plants along the Danube River. The first power plant is set for the region between Turnu Magurele (Romania) and Nikopol (Bulgaria), while the second will link the Romanian city of Calaras with the Bulgarian city of Silistra. These plants are expected to become operational within the next decade to 15 years, joining around 700 dams and reservoirs already existing along the Danube and its tributaries.

Spanning over 2,800 km and crossing ten countries—Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Moldova—the Danube River ranks as the second longest in Europe.

The governments of Bulgaria and Romania are supporting these projects to enhance their energy independence by tapping into a valuable shared resource. The Bulgarian Ministry of Energy states on its official website that Bulgaria must take advantage of this natural resource opportunity. Similarly, Romania’s Energy Minister, Sebastian Burduia, informed Euronews that the first dam project is seen as a profitable investment, boasting a significant capacity of over 800 MW, shared equally with Bulgaria.

Bulgaria incorporated hydropower into its strategic vision for sustainable energy sector growth earlier this year, aiming to establish 870 MW of new hydroelectric capacity by 2030. This target closely aligns with the anticipated capacity of the Turnu Magurele-Nikopol hydroelectric plant.

However, the financing sources for these hydroelectric plants remain uncertain. The projected cost for the Turnu Magurele-Nikopol plant alone exceeded €2 billion in 2018. Given current inflation rates, expenses are likely to be considerably higher. Romania’s energy minister discussed potential options at the European level, including the Modernization Fund and the Cross-Border Cooperation Funds.

Antonova from Greenpeace Bulgaria noted that they don’t believe the countries can solely rely on national recovery and resilience funding. Strict approval processes for these European funds will be necessary, she said. She emphasized the crucial role of the European Union in ensuring that member states embark on feasible and sustainable mega-projects, rather than making commitments solely to investors.

Despite acknowledging the environmental consequences, local residents express enthusiasm for the hydroelectric plants. Angela Dobre, a Turnu Magurele resident overseeing a non-profit organization for local development, shared her perspective: This initiative would provide wages and taxes for local budgets, which would be immensely beneficial. Dobre, who was an intern during the initial phases of the project’s commencement in the waning years of communism, highlighted the potential to invigorate a stagnant city with limited prospects for its younger population. She stated that a project of this magnitude will require numerous specialists, operating substantial equipment on site.

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