Solaris Energy Investment Ltd. (SEI) is a Bulgaria-based company that specialises in the planning, design and construction of photovoltaic power plants. SEI is the leading sustainable energy partner for businesses, serving commercial and industrial customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The company’s solar and energy efficient solutions enable businesses to reduce energy costs, improve reliability and lower carbon emissions. SEI has the ambition to become a publicly listed company in the near future. Valentin Georgiev has more than 15 years of experience in the area of renewables and is Managing Partner of the company.
Mr. Georgiev, SEI is a new player on the renewables market in Bulgaria. How easy it is nowadays to establish a company in this sector and in this country?
That is correct, SEI is indeed a new player, but we have an excellent team with international experience, capable of applying both local regulations as well good practices established in this field in many other countries over the years. But to answer the question, to establish a company is the easy part, to deliver proper services requires knowledge. This sector offers tons of opportunities, especially in countries like Bulgaria and, as we all see, many companies coming from different areas have started jumping in. This, of course, brings along risk and we shall start seeing more specific technical requirements to such projects to be implemented in the regulatory base in order to prevent further issues stemming from the lack of experience and moreover to ensure the necessary quality level and system performance for the end customer.
Do you think the current regulatory environment fosters foreign investments in the Bulgarian renewables market?
Each investor, especially those based abroad, seeks clear rules and properly working administration applying those rules. Also, all the latest major changes in the Bulgarian regulatory framework were done in the period of 2012 – 2015, with the clear agenda to cease the expansion of renewables in Bulgaria. So, we are now facing a situation where there is a huge interest of foreign companies to invest in such projects here, in Bulgaria, but they all face a regulatory environment that works against this. As a company actively acting in this market, we have been confronted with many problems during all project stages, starting from development, going through planning and construction, all the way to commissioning, problems that require a tremendous amount of time and efforts to overcome. And the reason behind all that is not that companies like SEI are incapable of doing their job, but the fact that the government authorities that set the rules have to sit tight and work closely together in order to clear the path and create a proper business environment.
Bulgaria has the ambition of adding 2,645 MW of installed electricity production capacity from renewable energy sources by 2030. Is there something that needs to change in the regulatory and investment environment in order for this goal to be achieved?
The thing is that it is not about what ambition Bulgaria has, but that the EU has put in place a legislatory framework to achieve new climate and energy targets up to 2030. The EU is working on fulfilling its decarbonisation strategy and insured a legislative framework for that years ago via Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources for all EU member states. Meanwhile, the Bulgarian parliament transposed the Directive into a Law for energy from renewable sources but following its first acceptance in 2011, this law was changed 18 times until 2019, with four changes occurring in 2013 alone. In other words, while the European parliament is working on fulfilling its decarbonisation strategy, the Bulgarian parliament has been conducting a policy that goes in the opposite direction. There are many gaps in the legislation that need to be filled in, however, some of the major topics that ought to be addressed, such as double taxation, the complicated permitting procedure and the insufficiency of administrative capacity, have to be resolved as soon as possible.