The Residential Energy Efficiency Credit Line (REECL) programme in Bulgaria expired on the 20th January 2010 and was, all in all, a quite successful one.
With a grant and a loan, the programme supported 28,915 home improvement projects bent on making buildings more energy-efficient. Since May 2005, the government has spent a total of Bulgarian Leva (BGN) 15,296,570 (EUR 7,832,620) on grants and financed BGN 86,939,457 (EUR 44,517,413) of loans for residential home owners and flat occupiers throughout the country.
The programme received its budget of more than EUR 64 million from the European Commission, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Bulgarian Energy Efficiency Agency - while Bulgarian banks administered it. Each household participating in the REECL programme benefited from an incentive of up to a 30 % of costs of the energy savings measures, although the amount was capped at EUR 2,000. As for solar water heaters, incentives were limited to a maximum amount of EUR 600 per family. At present, it is not clear if the programme will be implemented once again.
The following figure shows the single shares of eligible technologies in the total number of 28,915 applications. It can be noticed, that the 4% share of solar water heaters (1,241) is much smaller than the share of heat pumps, which reached 29 % (total number at 10,879 systems).
Share of the different technologies among the 28,915 energy-efficient Home Improvement Measures supported by the REECL programme in Bulgaria between May 2005 and January 2010. Source: http://www.reecl.org/statistics.php
What is behind the small share of solar thermal systems in relation to the high number of heat pumps? “Because the REECL programme was not promoted well enough in all of its possible implementations, especially the solar one,” answers Marketing Manager Yasen Nanev from NES Ltd., a collector manufacturer in Bulgaria. And Ilko Velikov, Senior Expert from Ivel Consult, adds: “The market potential for solar water heaters in the residential sector is fairly small in Bulgaria because most people live in multi-family houses, which makes project development and implementation very difficult.”
Ivel Consult is a consulting firm providing technical, marketing and legal services to the project's stakeholders, such as banks, donors and the government. According to Velikov, the awareness of solar thermal technology is relatively wide-spread, but qualified technical support is rare.
Ivel Consult emphasizes the advantage of heat pumps replacing resistive electrical heating. The majority of heat pumps supported by the REECL programme are driven by air. “We have been looking at ground source heat pumps for buildings. However, there are some pending legal issues, as well as high capital costs,” explains Ilko Velikov.
Moreover, the technician says that often householders - usually those living in single-family buildings - implement very simple, low-performance solar hot water systems, picturing their use only during summer time. Velikov sees a need for higher performing systems with a bigger hot water storage and an increase in collector area, which would also contribute to the hot water demand of households in autumn and even winter.
Please note: The Bulgarian Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Credit Line (BEERECL) programme for the commercial sector in Bulgaria is still running until the 30th of June 2011.
Text was written in cooperation with communication expert Hanna Schober based in South Africa. Schober@solrico.com