Boyan Vassilev is a psychologist and part of the managerial staff of the Health and Social Development Foundation in Sofia, Bulgaria. His organisation works with underprivileged groups, mainly in the Roma community to support their social development and integration. The main focus of the organisation’s work is on early childhood development.
With increasing electricity bills and rising energy costs, the centre was struggling to manage its expenses. Fortunately, the community centre was approached by Greenpeace Bulgaria, who kindly donated money to install a rooftop solar PV system. The PV system is a small 6 KW system consisting of 14 panels and is intended for self-consumption only.
The solar system has been running for three months. Already, the centre has reduced its electricity consumption from the grid by an average of about 50% compared to the same period last year! Boyan expects this trend to continue.
However, the entire process was not entirely straightforward. The community centre encountered unnecessarily complex administrative processes at the local district level. Boyan believes that there was an insufficient staffing and skilling of local administration staff, with an unfair administrative burden being placed on local authorities.
The installation of the solar panels themselves only took one day, but the entire process took nearly one year. Boyan thinks that the current solar permitting process in Bulgaria takes too long, and that greater efforts must be made to improve solar permitting times.
Since installing the solar PV system, there has been huge interest from the wider community in how much the investment costs, how much the centre saves, and how the system is maintained.
Boyan emphasises that people are ready to install a solar system, but simply do not know enough about it. He wants to discourage the misconception that installing solar is expensive when in fact it is very cost-effective!
The current political and economic situation clearly shows the need for energy independence. On the other hand, climate change, emergency measures, and a continuous rise in electricity prices require more countries, businesses, organisations and individuals to transition to renewable energy sources. I would appeal to European politicians and, in particular, to Bulgarian politicians, to change the current legislation and improve permitting procedures for solar PV systems, and of course, to ensure that installing solar PV systems remains affordable. The people most in need in our society have the smallest resources and opportunities.