The Expert Mission was delivered from the 13th to 15rd November 2019 with the Black Sea Regional Agency for Energy Management (http://www.bsraem.org/en/) - BSRAEM. BSRAEM has been established since 2003 but did not have much experience in financing large scale sustainable energy projects so far. The activities of the BSRAEM cover the territory of the Bulgarian Black Sea coast where they collaborate with the Agency for Sustainable Energy Development and the regional energy centres in Bulgaria. There is a very good cooperation potential and already established links with partners from neighbouring countries – Greece, Moldova, Ukraine which could be a significant advantage and development potential for BSRAEM to become a regional centre of excellence and knowledge provider for a wider region. The Agency seems well placed and connected with various stakeholders like cities (Varna, Aksakovo, Devnya and Beloslav were visited during the expert mission), banks (e.g. iBank) and others.
The intensive expert mission (3 days) was delivered by Dr Julije Domac and the main aim was to help BSRAEM to plan, structure and develop large scale sustainable energy investment concepts which may be applicable for the European Investment Bank's ELENA facility and other technical assistance support mechanisms. The mission consisted in the following activities:
- First day started with a meeting between the expert; Mr Todor Tonev and Ms Elena Simeonova (BSRAEM team). The meeting focused on BSRAEM activities and project portfolio in order to understand and develop the most suitable development concepts. The second half of the first day was dedicated to a meeting in the City of Beloslav where the team had a long discussion with the Mayor Deyan Ivanov. A working session was held in the afternoon with Beloslav municipal experts and councilors where the expert presented some of the best practise project examples and options for sustainable financing which could be used to develop municipal projects in the Black Sea region.
- On the second day, there was a meeting with Mr Yanko Georgiev, director of Ibank, a Bulgarian bank active in the region and at the national level. The team presented ELENA and other PDA (Project Development Assistance) schemes and had an in-depth discussion on how to finance large scale investment projects. Two meetings with mayor/deputy mayor of Devnya and Aksakovo municipalities confirmed that there is a wide range of already identified project ideas and a strong political will to implement them. Some of the project ideas discussed included PV stand alone systems and PV (RES) cooperatives, streetlighting, public building refurbishment, geothermal energy etc. A separate meeting was held with Mr Mladen Ivanov, Head of Urban Transport Planning department of Varna Municipality where different aspects and plans for e-mobility and urban infrastructure investments were discussed.
- Last day was spent in BSRAEM office in an interactive session with the whole BSRAEM team to wrap-up and make an action plan for further activities. It was agreed that BSRAEM and REGEA experts will continue to work together and will meet again in Zagreb on 4th December to discuss the concepts to be developed in the meantime and to expand the cooperation.
Some of the most important recommendations given by the vising expert to the host agency:
- The Agency is positioned well with a broad political support from local municipalities and cities. It was obvious that there is a trust from the mayors in the Agency which is an important prerequisite for any follow-up.
- Further areas of activities related to sustainable energy investments of BSRAEM should be focused on:
- PDA/ELENA project on sustainable transport. It was good to see that cities like Varna and Burgas already developed some feasible plans and investment concepts. The efforts should be concentrated on providing cities with support to develop smart city infrastructure and to develop complementary activities to purchasing electrical buses and building e-charging stations. An ongoing biogas project in Burgas has significant potential to be linked to sustainable transport concepts. All that activities could become a role model for wider region (South-East Europe).
- PDA/ELENA project on PV plants on public buildings roofs in combination with energy retrofit of public and private buildings. An interesting concept could be to open the PV project for citizens investments and to create one or more green cooperatives.
- PDA/ELENA project on streetlighting based on ESCO/EPC investment models which should be further communicated and explained to mayors and other decision makers. In general, there is a lack of knowledge and experience in EPC/PPP and other innovative financing models others than grants and standard financing. This could be a potential market niche where BSRAEM could develop know-how and capitalise their competence.
The Agency team is compact and rich in various expertise. The expert appreciate their high level of enthusiasm to expand their activities in financing large scale sustainable investments. If this going to materialised, It will be important to develop organisational structure within the Agency to ensure long-term and sustainable growth. In the near future, some external expertise in the area of sustainable transport may be needed to speed-up development of identified projects. A very positive fact is that there is a variety of financing options for analysed project concepts (EU structural/cohesion funds, Norwegian cooperation fund, commercial loans from banks…) and that the short-term investment potential is over 100 mil EUR.