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Bulgarian towns are left without street lighting due to high electricity prices

Photo: BGNES

The number of Bulgarian municipalities which are struggling to pay their electricity bills for street lighting and public transport has increased due to the soaring prices of power and fuels, mayors of Bulgarian municipalities say. According to representatives of industry associations, the skyrocketing electricity prices have a detrimental effect on the restaurant and hotel business in this country.

In November last year, the electricity and heating bills of Kardzhali municipality more than doubled as compared to the same month in 2020, Mayor Hasan Azis announced. Highest increase was registered in two sectors- education and social assistance. However, the municipality paid a substantial amount of money for street lighting. Mayor Azis warns that high electricity prices will force the municipalities to save on capital costs for road maintenance and repair of sidewalks, parks, schools and kindergartens. If prices continue to increase at the same rate, the Municipality of Kardzhali will need nearly EUR 250,000 a month for power and fuel, Engineer Hasan Asiz noted. That is why he called on the state to provide financial aid to the local authorities immediately after the adoption of the 2022 state budget.

Meanwhile, many municipalities in Kardzhali district started to save on electricity for street lighting leaving residents in the dark. For instance, street lights in the Municipality of Kirkovo goes off at 22.00 pm. In Ardino, there is street lighting between 18.00 and 21.00 pm and between 6.00 and 7.00 am. However, other Bulgarian districts have also resorted to these restrictions due to the constantly increasing prices of electricity.

“We have been saving on electricity, but the last electricity bill amounted to EUR 28,000. Moreover, there was street lighting for 5 or 6 hours a day, instead of 12 hours. Earlier, this sum was enough to pay for the electricity bills for 6 whole months- the Mayor of Ardino Izet Shaban said. - Half of our revenues will now be spent on electricity and the rest on waste management and collection.”

Electricity bills in the Municipality of Varna have also gone up significantly. However, for the time being Bulgaria’s marine capital is not expected to start saving on electricity for street lighting.

“Each year, Varna Municipality earmarks between EUR 1.2 million and EUR 1.5 million for street lighting- Deputy Mayor Peycho Peichev said.- However, between October and December 2021, our costs increased 2.5 times as compared to the same trimester of 2020. We still have enough financial buffers and are able to pay the higher electricity bills. That is why we have not yet introduced any restrictions and the street lights never go off at night. We hope that the state authorities will take the necessary action, because the current compensations amounting to 6 eurocents per kilowatt are not sufficient. As for the public transport, our December electricity bill was to the tune of EUR 129,000, or 3.5 times higher as compared to December 2020.”

According to Ekaterina Yordanova, Chairwoman of the Federation of Transport Trade Unions in Bulgaria, many public transport companies in the country are facing bankruptcy.

“Public transport services can be neither suspended, nor cut. On the contrary, we need to expand these services, because people must keep physical distance. We also need more money for disinfection of public transport vehicles. Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, now busses are full again, which is a reason for concern. The state must intervene and provide the necessary support, because will well be left without public transport services very soon.”

15% of the restaurants and four hotels in the town of Stara Zagora will temporarily close in February, because of the huge electricity bills and lower turnovers amidst the Covid-19 epidemic.

“The situation is extremely worrying and no one can think more than a month ahead- Veni Petrova, Chairperson of the Association of Hotel and Restaurants Owners- Stara Zagora said.- Top chef Ivan Manchev announced that 30% of restaurants in Bulgaria have closed. Most colleagues say that they are not able to service their debt and are one step away from bankruptcy. ”

Compiled by: Diana Tsankova (interviews by BNR-Kardzhali, BNR-Varna and BNR-Stara Zagora)

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

Photos: BGNES
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