Update from the national Bulgarian SmartEnCity Network

15 Sep 2020

Bulgarian SmartEnCity Network has been created involving six Bulgarian municipalities as well as a number of other relevant stakeholders. Various collaborative actions have since been performed before the activites were affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Bulgarian SmartEnCity Network has performed various collaborative actions including:

  • Participation in events related to smart cities and city solutions for sustainable development;
  • Holding SECN-BG meeting in Asenovgrad Municipality and Scenario Formulation Workshop in the neighbouring Kuklen Municipality;
  • Intervention and discussion about SmartEnCity at the Annual General Meeting of Association of Rhodope Municipalities (ARM), and others.

Local elections held in October 2019 slowed down the pace of the SECN-BG activities and at the end of 2019 Asenovgrad Municipality prepared a planning document to catch up with the delay in the months to come. The document included activities such as second scenario discussion workshop; second intervention among Rhodope Municipalities to be done at the next ARM board meeting; bilateral meetings with representatives of a number of Bulgarian municipalities (Rodopi, Parvomaj, Plovdiv, Kuklen, Chepelare, Pazardzhik and others) to present and discuss the concept and approach of SmartEnCity as well as the benefits and results for Asenovgrad Municipality, and to disseminate SmartEnCity best practices within the Bulgarian SEC network aiming at replication of the approach.

The abovementioned activities were planned to take place between March and May 2020. However, due to the world pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 spreading to Bulgaria too, it was not possible to fulfil the planned activities as the country was locked down starting the beginning of March 2020 until June 2020 after which gradual opening has begun. Straight away the dire social and economic consequences following the pandemic became visible and the focus in both national and local governments shifted towards mitigating and offsetting the adverse effects of the lockdown.

The plans for the SECN-BG remain unchanged but their realization is uncertain amid worsening situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in Bulgaria at present, with increasing number of cases and fears of a second and more severe wave of infections in the coming months. Due to this, the main efforts are directed towards activities that do not require physical contacts and travel to municipalities’ premises or participation in events, such as review and update of Integrated Plan for Urban Development and Regeneration of Asenovgrad including its Integrated Energy Planning part and merging with theSEAP and the Municipal Development Plan.

As soon as the pandemic allows, the foreseen SECN-BG activities will resume according to the planning document. In the meantime, several alternatives are being explored such as the possibility to hold the planned bilateral meetings online or disseminate via e-mail a written presentation in Bulgarian of the SmartEnCity approach and results, and ask the involved municipalities about their feedback and willingness to replicate the approach.