The European Investment Bank (EIB) has signed an agreement with Bulgaria’s national electricity company Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania EAD (NEK) with an aim to advance 1.6GW pumped-storage hydropower plants in the country.

In line with this, the EIB will offer advisory support to NEK for the preparation of the construction of the Batak and the Dospat pumped-storage hydropower plants.

The hydropower plants are part of the Ten-Year Network Development Plan (TYNDP) 2024 of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E).  

Each of the Bulgarian pumped-storage projects is estimated to cost about €900m. Their commissioning is expected to be achieved by 2032.

The projects will be located at hydropower cascade dams and reservoirs near the towns of Batak and Dospat in southwest Bulgaria. Each of them will contribute nearly 800MW of generation capacity.

The pumped-storage hydropower facilities will also expand storage capacity and bolster the electricity supply in Bulgaria and the European Union (EU).

According to the terms of the agreement, EIB Advisory will evaluate the technical feasibility and economic viability of the Batak and the Dospat projects.

The InvestEU Advisory Hub partner of the European Commission will also study the benefits and risks of the Bulgarian renewable energy projects.

The assessments will enable Bulgaria’s national electricity company to make informed decisions that are significant for the development of the Batak and the Dospat pumped-storage hydropower plants.

EIB vice president Kyriacos Kakouris said: “The EIB supports the development of strategic sustainable investment projects in the energy sector across the European Union and beyond.

“We are pleased to provide the Bank’s expertise in assessing the feasibility and the viability of the two projects, which can significantly impact Bulgaria’s energy mix and enhance the stability of its power grid while reinforcing the overall European energy grid infrastructure.”

The Batak and Dospat projects are designed to function as large rechargeable batteries. They will deliver NEK flexible 24-hour and weekly management, rapid replacement of capacity during emergencies, and other balancing services.

Bulgaria interim Energy Minister Vladimir Malinov said: “The partnership between the European Investment Bank and the Ministry of Energy is key to delivering projects that will contribute to achieving the energy transition.

“Among them is the development of pumped-storage hydropower plants, which could become the largest energy storage batteries in the region.”