Bulgarian Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva said the government should take action to financially support domestic consumers of natural gas as prices continue to rise, amid fears of a tough winter ahead.

Bulgarian Ombudsman Urges Govt to Help Households Pay Gas Bills

Bulgaria’s Parliament building in Sofia, December 2021. Photo by EPA-EFE/VASSIL DONEV

Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva said on Thursday that she is concerned by the information she has received from struggling households and called on Bulgaria’s interim government to focus on swift action to financially support domestic customers of natural gas and companies using gas to heat residential buildings.

“I believe that the validity period for this compensation should be at least until the end of 2022, with estimates for its extension until the end of the heating season in April 2023,” said Kovacheva. 

In the last couple of months, the price of natural gas sold by state-owned supplier Bulgargaz, has more than doubled from 72.42 euros per MWh in June to 152.38 euros per MWh in August, and is set to rise to 161.31 euros per MWh.

Kovacheva noted that household consumers of natural gas were compensated by the state in December 2021, when the gas price was much lower at 52.27 euros per MWh, and are within their rights to demand further state support.

How Bulgaria should diversify its gas resources has been a point of debate in recent months.

In April, Bulgaria and Poland cut ties with Russia’s Gazprom amid worsened diplomatic relations in the context of the invasion in Ukraine and EU sanctions on Russia.

Then former Prime Minister Kiril Petkov’s coalition managed to secure deals with Azerbaijan and the US, with supplies being transferred through an almost-finished gas interconnector between Bulgaria and Greece.

The course changed after Petkov’s coalition fell after a no-confidence vote and on August 1, an interim government by President Rumen Radev, previously a sceptic about Bulgaria distancing itself from Gazprom, came to power.

While Petkov and Nikolov remain positive that gas resources will be available if the interim government confirms all deals already discussed and said that no panic is needed, President Radev and interim Prime Minister Gulub Donev have adopted a warning tone that a tough winter is coming.

On August 5, concerns were raised the interim government is sabotaging the completion of the interconnector with Greece in order to make Bulgaria dependent on Gazprom again. According to the latest estimate, the interconnector could be fully operational by October 1.

On August 17, the interim government appointed Denitza Zlateva as the new director of the state gas company, Bulgargaz, along with a new board of directors.

Zlateva is a former MP and part of the pro-Kremlin Bulgarian Socialist Party. Local media have noted that most members of the team have limited or no expertise in energy. According to Zlateva, Bulgaria has a secure gas supply until December at least.

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