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Development of infrastructure for electric cars – mission im(possible)

In addition to tax reliefs and financial premiums on purchasing such vehicles, development of charging station infrastructure for electric cars is one of the most important factors for encouraging large scale market presence of electric vehicles. However, while financial incentives would encourage few, the lack of appropriate network of charging stations at city and national level would discourage many of the enthusiasts willing to have electric cars.

Trends in the European Union

In July 2016, the European Commission developed a strategy for low emissions mobility, setting out the network expansion of publicly accessible power charging points as one of the main measures. In view of this strategy, since the end of November last year, there are two proposed directives: One is focused on the amendment of Directive 2010/31/ЕU on the energy performance of buildings. In particular, with regard to the charging station infrastructure for electric vehicles, this proposal envisages the following innovations:

  • Member States will be obliged to ensure that all new non-residential buildings and buildings under major renovation, which have more than ten parking spaces, will have at least one charging station for every ten parking spaces;
  • Member States will be obliged to provide pre-cabling for newly built residential buildings, and for buildings being under major renovation, which have more than ten parking spaces, allowing installation of a charging station for each one of these spaces.

The second proposal aims to amend Directive 2009/72/EC concerning the common rules for the internal market in electricity. It gives the first definition of the term "charging point" and provides that energy distributors will have to include in their network development plans on accession of charging points for electric vehicles.

Legal framework in Bulgaria

The adopted in 2012 national plan to promote “green” vehicles aimed to settle the status of charging stations for electric vehicles (“EV charging stations”).

The law also explicitly states that the order of installation of such charging stations is determined by the municipal council responsible for the territory of each municipality, leading to different and even contradictory administrative regimes in place. This in turn prevents or at least seriously impedes development of large scale projects to build EV charging station infrastructure at national level.

Two different regulation procedures are established as to whether the charging column will be installed on private or municipal, i.e. state-owned land plot.

Minicipal/ State-owned property

In general, placing the charging point on municipal/ state-owned land requires an installation scheme and permission for installation.

The installation scheme should be approved by the Municipal Expert Council for the territory and then authorized by the chief architect. Regarding Sofia - if the EV charging point is installed in downtown area, the scheme should be additionally approved by the City Council. In Plovdiv and Varna the Chief Architect and the Municipal Council or an Expert Council on Spatial Planning are also involved in the approval process, depending on the region where the charging column will be placed. When it comes to a state property, the installation scheme is coordinated in advance with the main administration to which the property is granted, and in other cases - with the district governor.

The installation scheme is prepared by experts in the relevant municipality or in case of explicit assignment - by external experts. In Plovdiv the issued installation scheme serves for research, design and implementation of coordination activities (and in particular with the relevant electricity supplier regarding options to access the grid), while in Sofia the coordinative actions with the relevant companies is to be carried out before scheme approval. Regarding Varna this issue is not settled expressly.

The person who obtains the right to install an EV charging column is in charge for the design process. After the project’s approval, authorization for installation is issued. The authority issuing the permit is different in the municipalities: for Plovdiv's it is the Mayor of Plovdiv (the central regions) or the district mayors; for Sofia - it is the Chief Architect of Sofia municipality for the downtown zone and for the remaining districts - the chief architect of the respective region; for Varna - the mayor of the respective region or in rare cases, the mayor of Varna.

The authorization term also varies in different municipalities. In Sofia and Plovdiv the installation of EV charging columns on municipal/ state-owned land is valid up to five years and in Varna - up to three years.

In addition to the authorization for installation, in Sofia an explicit written consent by the mayor of the respective municipality is required. 

Private property

The regime for installation of EV charging station on a private terrain is more simplified – a scheme with installation instructions is required. The difference between the scheme with installation instructions and the installation scheme is the process of issuance. The scheme with installation instructions is issued directly on the grounds of an application of the concerned person by the relevant chief architect. In Sofia, the issuance of the scheme requires preliminary compliance procedures regarding the energy supplier in relation with the options to access the grid.

Obtaining the scheme is followed by a design process and issuance of authorization for installation. Again, there are significant differences with regard to the optimal authorization term for installation in various municipalities – up to ten years for Sofia, and five years for Varna.

In Plovdiv, there is no specific procedure for installation of movable object on private property.

Placing in service

The last stage of the procedure for installation of the EV charging column provided only in the regulation of the Sofia Municipality is its placing in service. The owner of a charging column under individual project is required within seven days of installation to file a request for a certificate of commissioning by the authority issuing the permit for installation. At this point, a contract to access the grid of the energy supplier should be submitted as well. The connection itself is subject to separate procedure. The law makes it clear that only after obtaining authorization for installation, an application to study the conditions of accession may be submitted, which creates a certain conflict with the provisions of the regulations in Sofia and Plovdiv on prior coordination of movable objects.

Fragmented and somewhat confusing legislation is a serious obstacle for building an EV charging infrastructure. However, only in Sofia there are around 20 EV charging stations. Most of them are placed on private property. There is a trend large retail companies to start building such EV charging stations in order to increase competitiveness. At the same time, last month Sofia Municipality declared readiness to launch a major project in preparation of schemes for installing 80 EV charging stations in the next two years. Such a project would encourage use of electric vehicles, at least in Sofia, and will serve as an example for other cities wishing to support the development of environmental-friendly technologies.

Authors

Picture of Darina Baltadjieva
Darina Baltadjieva