Plovdiv’s path toward more efficient, green, and energy-independent residential heating

The Energy Agency of Plovdiv supports the phase-out of firewood and coal use for domestic heating in the City of Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Plovdiv’s path toward more efficient, green, and energy-independent residential heating

The Energy Agency of Plovdiv has long advocated for the sustainable use of local biomass for heating, and the increased energy efficiency of heating devices as the main means to fighting air pollution.

Even though biomass is an important renewable source in the EU, its promotion should be careful in Bulgaria: low-income households are often compelled to purchase cheap, humid wood and low-quality coal, before burning them in highly inefficient stoves. This becomes the primary cause of dramatic seasonal increases in air pollution in their communities. The link between energy poverty and poor air quality has now started to gain recognition: grants for replacing old heating equipment are already in place.

In the city of Plovdiv, around 18,000 households are heated with firewood and coal, producing 539 tonnes of particulate matter (a measure of air pollution) and 52,000 tonnes of CO2. The Energy Agency of Plovdiv supports the Municipality of Plovdiv in implementing a heating replacement programme, providing a 100% state grant for 3,500 households to replace their old heating stoves with environmentally-friendly alternatives. This action aims for an estimated 20% reduction in polluting emissions.

The Energy Agency of Plovdiv (EAP) provides technical support to household applicants through on-site home visits, energy and heating diagnostics, professional expertise about what alternative heating device to choose, follow-up, and quality control over the installation of new devices. EAP mediates the heating replacement process between the local authority, the energy technology provider, and the households through live and platform-based communication. It calculates the potential for post-intervention energy and emission savings and supports the promotional campaign for heating replacement.

Furthermore, EAP advocates for more intensive efforts to ensure sustainable biomass utilization – stronger biomass sustainability criteria than the REDII ones, the introduction of a “chimney sweep” service, dedicated quality assurance and labels of the biomass-based fuels and heating devices, and the dismissal of support schemes for fossil fuels and firewood. These challenges need to be addressed on the national level and EAP has made efforts to drive the debate ahead.

Through its dedication to heating replacements and its supporting policies, the Energy Agency of Plovdiv is aiming to make the campaign for alternative heating options a showcase of how integrated decarbonized and low-emission policies may be a game-changer in fighting the energy, climate, and environmental challenges we all face.

This article is a preview of FEDARENE’s forthcoming “Sustainable Regions in Action 2023” brochure. As part of the recently-launched “Winter measures for now & 2050” campaign, FEDARENE is sharing select articles to help promote innovative actions helping to deliver the REPowerEU plan.