Austria's EVN Signs Deal To Revive Gorna Arda Hydro Power Project in Bulgaria
SOFIA (Bulgaria), July 20 (SeeNews) – Bulgarian electricity grid operator NEK said on Tuesday it has signed with Austrian utility EVN a deal that should get back on track the long-delayed construction of a chain of hydro power plants in the Balkan country.
"Currently [the participants in the project] are working intensively on the technical aspects of the feasibility study," NEK said in a statement.
The agreement for the implementation of the hydro complex on the Gorna Arda river in southern Bulgaria, close to the border with Turkey, was signed late on Monday in Vienna.
"I expect that the technical project will be completed by the end of the year and that the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the Gorna Arda hydro power complex should happen in early 2012," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who attended the signing ceremony, said in a statement released by the government press office late on Monday.
The Austrian company plans to double its stake in the project by injecting an additional 1.4 million levs ($926,100/715,800 euro), the government statement added, not specifying the size of EVN's current interest.
EVN will thus remain NEK's only partner in the project in which the Bulgarian utility currently holds 70%, the statement said.
According to a report by Austria's national news agency APA posted on the website of the Vienna Stock Exchange on Tuesday, EVN is going to seek a stake of up to 70% in the three hydro power plants with a combined planned capacity of 174.2 megawatts (MW).
Earlier this year, Austria's Alpine Bau withdrew from its tie-in with EVN for the construction of the hydro power complex in Bulgaria.
Under a deal signed in May 2009 with NEK's parent, the state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holding, the Austrian consortium had undertaken to invest 600 million euro ($776.3 million) in the Gorna Arda project.
The Austrian consortium replaced Turkey's Construction Contracting Group (CCG) after buying CCG's 30.1% stake in the hydro power venture.
CCG was the successor in the project of Turkey's Ceylan Holding.
In 1999, NEK and Ceylan Holding formed a 69.91/30.1 joint venture to build the three hydro power plants. The project was due to kick off in the autumn of 1999 but construction works never began as the bank that was to finance the Turkish part of the deal filed for insolvency.