Interview with Olivier Marquette, President of AES Bulgaria, for Offnews.bg
I hope that Bulgaria will keep TPPs like TPP AES Galabovo, which cover all modern environmental standards
– Mr. Marquette, the AmCham Annual Business Breakfast with the government took place recently. In your opinion, as an AmCham President, what are the conclusions after this meeting?
-We are very happy that for a second consecutive year the American business community had the opportunity to discuss very important topics with the Bulgarian Government as investments, strategic cooperation, economy, and innovation. This format is important and useful for both parties because it allows to discuss a wide range of topics and to give and get feedback. This is of key importance for the US companies operating in Bulgaria. We believe that only together – business and government – can ensure certainty and stability in the economy for the prosperity of the entire nation. AmCham is always ready to support the efforts of the government to improve the business climate and to attract foreign investors. As it is known, the US cumulative investments in Bulgaria amount to BGN 4.5 billion. They created 22 600 jobs and are in the Top 6 of foreign investments in Bulgaria. The bilateral commodity turnover is BGN 2 billion as Bulgarian export of goods is bigger than the US import.
-What is the share of AES Bulgaria, whose President you are, in these investments?
–AES is the biggest investor in Bulgaria’s energy sector in the last 30 years. We have invested over BGN 3.2 billion in reliable energy and the taxes and social security contributions paid amount to BGN 703 million. AES Bulgaria has built and operates the newest and most advanced power plant in South East Europe – TPP AES Galabovo, and the largest wind farm in the country – Saint Nikola Wind Farm. Our company guarantees energy security and is one of the main factors for energy independence as in its operation it uses only local resources – wind for Saint Nikola and lignite coal from Mini Maritza East for TPP AES Galabovo. The power plant annually uses over 5 million tons of coal from the complex.
-How many jobs AES Bulgaria provides and what is the most important for the company as an employer?
– TPP AES Galabovo provides about 6% of the installed power capacity of the country. We create around 4 500 direct and indirect jobs. Apart from our employees, we provide employment for many suppliers, partners and companies that we are working with from the region and all over the country. Thanks to the operation of TPP AES Galabovo, work is provided for around 2000 miners in Mini Maritza East which is around 30% of all workers in the state-run company. As regards Saint Nikola Wind Farm, since 2009 it has provided more than 500 jobs for the construction period and 10 during the operation period.
As a company, AES and AES Bulgaria, in particular, aims to be a leader in providing sustainable energy by guaranteeing safe and reliable solutions and by doing this with care about the local communities and the environment.
– Recently, corporate social responsibility is getting more popular. How does AES Bulgaria understand this concept?
– In AES, we are proud that we improve life in the communities where we operate. Our attention is focused on three areas – education, sports, and health care. AES Bulgaria has invested more than BGN 14 million in various CSR programs related to these three spheres since the beginning of our activities here. In Galabovo area, we provide heating fuel and cover food costs for the kids in the school in Obruchiste, thus providing the opportunity for the kids to go to school without travelling every day to the town. In Kavarna, where our wind park is located, we donated interactive teaching boards to all schools in the municipality. We provide funding for sports and one of our leading projects is the renovation of the Youth Center in Galabovo, as well as the construction of a new stadium in the town. In Kavarna, AES has supported a number of projects for repair of playgrounds for the kids as well as in the surrounding villages. In the town we also support the maintenance costs of the neurology department in the hospital and the repair of the medical center. We helped to purchase a new ambulance for the hospital in Galabovo. All of these are examples of our social commitment to the areas where we operate and where our employees and their families live. And our contribution to improving the quality of life in these regions brings us satisfaction.
– Facts show that the company is a driving force for both the local and national economies. However, in Europe there is the debate on the closure of the coal TPPs due to environmental reasons. How do you see the future of coal-fired power plants?
-Indeed, there is such a process and the debate for moving towards a carbon-free economy is getting more intense. Not only in the European Union (EU) but also worldwide, efforts are being made to increase the share of energy produced by renewable energy sources. By 2030, the EU has set its goals to decrease carbon emissions by 40% compared to the levels in 1990 and to increase the share of RES and energy efficiency with 27%. In achieving these targets, however, we should not ignore the specifics of every member-state. Every one of them will try to achieve these targets from a different starting point. In Bulgaria, coal-fired energy has an important place and this should be taken into account. 45% of the electricity in Bulgaria is produced from fossil fuel. Having in mind this percentage, it is clear that no matter how much the share of other energy sources will increase, coal-fired energy will continue playing a critical role in ensuring security of supply in the foreseeable future. Of course, we talk about production in TPPs with modern technologies, which follow high security standards and environmental protection standards, and TPP AES Galabovo is exactly this type of power plant. I think that on this matter our views completely comply with those of the Bulgarian government. What is necessary to be done is to find a mechanism for TPPs like TPP AES Galabovo, which cover all modern environmental standards, to continue providing electricity to guarantee the stability of the electricity system. We are ready to actively participate and facilitate this process with our expertise. We hope that the importance of the TPPs for Bulgaria’s energy security will be taken into account.