Bulgaria is considering switching development work from the Upper Arda hydro project to the Ticha dam, following a decision by Turkey to suspend Bulgarian electricity imports.

Turkey is Bulgaria’s major electricity customer, taking 90% of its export. Sales have been made under long term contracts under which Turkey provided investment in Bulgarian infrastructure, including road construction and hydro power development. But in April, according to Bulgaria’s National Electric Company (NEC), Turkey pulled out of the agreement.

‘If deliveries were halted after negotiations, we could have concluded different contracts with the power plants or could have sought other customers,’ an NEC source told Bulgarian newspapers. Macedonia and Greece are potential customers but Bulgaria would receive 10-12% lower prices than those paid by Turkey, he said. In the meantime Bulgarian operators have brought forward scheduled maintenance to use the unplanned idle time for rehabilitation of the facilities.

Turkey’s announcement that it was discontinuing electricity imports from Bulgaria breaks a 1998 Bulgarian-Turkish intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation in the Fields of Energy and Infrastructure. Under the agreement, Bulgaria was to export electricity in exchange for investment in the construction of the Upper Arda hydro power project and Maritsa highway. Documents on the launch of the project were signed in 1999, but no progress has been made since then as Ceylan Holding, designated project contractor on the part of Turkey, went bankrupt in 2000 and the Bulgarian side started looking for a strategic investor to replace it. Turkey claimed it had suspended electricity imports because of Bulgaria’s failure to meet its infrastructure commitments.

The projects within the agreement (Upper Arda and Maritsa Highway) could be replaced with others, for example the Ticha dam and the Nis-Sofia highway projects.