Bulgaria and Romania to revive €6bn Danube hydropower project

Bulgaria and Romania to revive €6bn Danube hydropower project
Bulgaria and Romania are updating old plans to build a major new hydropower plant on the Danube. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 14, 2024

Bulgaria’s National Electricity Company (NEK) and Romania’s Hidroelectrica are reviving a project to build a joint hydropower plant (HPP) on the River Danube between the cities of Nikopol in Bulgaria and Turnu Magurele in Romania, Bulgarian Energy Minister Rumen Radev said on February 14 as quoted by Investor.bg.

The project dates from 50 years ago and was drafted in the 80s and 90s, NEK’s director Martin Georgiev said. It also includes the construction of a second bridge on the Danube that would connect the two countries. It is estimated that the construction would cost the two countries €6bn.

“This is a cross-border project where the hydropower plant is just a small part of the benefits – it is an important infrastructure project, which will secure an important connectivity between the two countries – of roads, rails, energy networks, as there will be a substation and the floating will be improved, as well as the management of flood risks,” Georgiev said.

He added that currently the two countries are updating the old projects, revising them technically and from an environmental point of view. The HPP should generate 800 MW of electricity annually.

However, environmentalists strongly object to the project, saying it poses risks to biodiversity. Between Nikopol and Turnu Magurele there are several islets that are reservations and could be destroyed by the construction work.

Countries along the Danube already exploit the river to produce hydropower. As countries along the Danube seek to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and boost energy security, there are ongoing discussions and plans for the construction of new hydropower plants both on the Danube and its tributaries. 

There are around 60 dams along the first 1,000 kilometers of the Danube alone. The upper reaches of the river are particularly suitable for the construction of hydropower facilities, thanks to its natural incline.

In Austria, nearly 60% of the annual electricity production comes from hydropower, with about 20% generated directly along the Danube. In Slovakia, hydropower contributes around 16% to the overall energy mix. 

The biggest hydropower infrastructure on the Danube is the Iron Gates system in the Djerdap Gorge, consisting of two dams operated by Serbia and Romania. This generates roughly 37% of Serbia's energy and 27% of Romania's.