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2021 energy balance: unprecedented energy demand

2021 energy balance: unprecedented energy demand

Every November, National Statistical Institute (NSI) publish Bulgaria’s energy balance data for the previous year. The free-access database contains information about production, transformation and consumption of energy and energy products by economic sectors. This information has been available for over twenty years.

2021 top focal points:

  • Unprecedented growth of +8% in the gross domestic energy consumption overtook economic growth driven by economic recovery after lifting the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions;
  • An increased demand for gas was noticeable in both gross consumption (+12%) and final energy consumption (+20.9%);
  • With a historic jump of 10%, industry headed towards a close to 3000 ktoe energy consumption a figure of higher magnitude was observed last in 2008;
  • For the last eight years, it had been only COVID-19 pandemic which succeeded in interrupting the upward trend of energy consumption in the transport sector caused mainly by the high demand of petrol and petrol products for road transport;
  • Household power consumption marked a new historic maximum of over 1000 ktoe;
  • Total primary energy production reached a ten-year peak with the penetration of renewable energy sources becoming more tangible, however, the extent to which increased use of solid biomass rendered the desired green nuance for an environmentally-friendly and sustainable development sought for by the general public was rather questionable.
  • Energy and energy resource import added a new descent, marking its lowest value.  

Primary energy production, import and export of energy and energy resources

Primary energy production exceeded 12 000 ktoe which occurred for the second time in the contemporary statistical history. Traditionally, the top position was shared by coal and nuclear resources. The third major participant was RES with a contribution to primary energy production increasing 4 times in twenty years, from 688.8 ktoe to 2965 ktoe. RES included hydro energy, solar energy, wind energy, energy from biomass and solid biomass. A concern raised the fact that solid biomass (mainly wood material) was a powerful driver giving an impetus to growth of RES use during previous years, as evidenced by the data presented in the Sixth National Report on Bulgaria’s Progress in the Promotion and Use of Energy from Renewable Sources.

Following a substantial drop of over 16.3% in 2020, energy resource import added new negative values of 3.9%, reaching 10100.5 ktoe, the lowest figure in the last twenty years.

This could be attributed to the considerable decrease in petrol and petrol product import in the last two years (2020: -22.67% and 2021: -9.3%). In 2021, import went down to 6537 ktoe – a level most typical for the beginning of the new millennium. In contrast to petrol and petrol products, natural gas import returned to the levels prior to the 2007-2008 financial crisis impact and reached 2734.1 ktoe (2021: +12.3%).

The last two years marked also a decline in energy and energy product export (2020:-30.4% and 2021: -16.8%) due to the reduced petrol product export. In 2021, the export amounted to 2009.9 ktoe or twice lower compared to the one in the previous decade.

Gross inland consumption

The strong recovery of gross domestic consumption with unprecedented growth of 8.2% achieved a thirteen-year peak of 19295.4 ktoe. All types of sources contributed to this growth with the exception of nuclear energy (2021:-0.9%).

Final energy consumption

With a historic jump of 7.7%, the final energy consumption marked a new record, surpassing 10 000 ktoe for the first time.

From the perspective of source types, contributing were coal (+ 34%), natural gas (+20.9%), petrol and petrol products (+7%), heating energy (+3%) and electricity (+8.2%). It was only final energy from renewable sources and biofuels which dropped by 5.2% though still maintaining an exceptionally high level of 1470.1 ktoe.

From the perspective of consumers, energy and energy resource demand in Industry, Transport, Household and Services sectors marked a substantial growth. There was no shifting of places, i.e. the top consumer remained to be Transport.


With a sharp 10% surge in 2021, industry hurtled to nearly 3 000 ktoe energy consumption. Figures of such a magnitude were typical before the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

Natural gas consumption by industry moved upwards with the impressive 22.7% against 2020, reaching 1041 ktoe, a value observed last in 2008. The main driver of growth was considered to be the double increase in consumption by the industry “manufacturing non-metallic mineral raw materials” (such as concrete, cement, gypsum, glass, etc.).

Electricity was another basic element in industrial energy consumption. In 2020, at the height of COVID-19 restrictions, industry shrank energy consumption by 3%, though remaining higher than the levels observed since 2017, namely, over 800 ktoe. In 2021, there was a recovery of 2.5%.

In 2000-2009, the average annual RES and biofuel energy consumed by industry was 67.6 ktoe. In the next decade, it was 228 ktoe. In 2020, consumption went up in unison with RES growth trends and landed at 260 ktoe. In 2021, it dropped by 13.6%.


With a strong growth of 7%, final energy consumption in the Transport sector was able to not only compensate the decline in 2020 (-6%) but to mark a new record of 3433.3 ktoe. This upturn could be explained by the unprecedented consumption of petrol and petrol products, amounting to 3081 ktoe and used mainly in road transport.

Statistical data about renewable energy sources and biofuels use in transport have been reported since 2006. At that time, the figure showed a use of 5.6 ktoe. Subsequent years have not been favourable as regards RES penetration. In 2013 a sharp jump of 85 ktoe was observed, and in 2019, RES and biofuels gained a peak use of 179 ktoe, followed by a two-year drop of 4.1% and 2.7%, respectively.


During the 2020 pandemic, Bulgarian households increase energy consumption by 10% reaching a record-high amount of 2382.2 ktoe. A year later, a new historic peak of 2402.6 ktoe was observed, with a strong energy demand noticed in nearly all types of energy and energy resources. Electricity was the most preferred household energy, landing at a new history maximum of over 1 000 ktoe. Heating energy consumption was also on the rise, by 2.7% while natural gas – by 18%.

It was a surprise to witness the return of coal, its use growing to 39.1% or 138.3 ktoe in consumption, and the withdrawal from RES and biofuels by 11.2%.

Trade and public service sector

This sector also marked an exceptional growth of 19.7% and a new historic energy consumption record of 1 301 ktoe. Similar to households, this sector showed preference to electrical energy – 735.6 ktoe. Consumption of RES and biofuel energy was 304 ktoe or higher than the use in industry and transport. However, it is hard to assess what stood behind this figure – whether it was new technology involvement or solid biomass use – because public data were unavailable.

Efficiency ratios

Energy intensity may be considered as a rough estimate of economy energy efficiency in a given country, and shows energy quantity utilised to produce a GDP unit. Several reasons may be named as regards the observed energy intensity improvements: general shift from industry to service-based economy, shift to less energy-intensive activities and production methods, closure of inefficient units and use of more energy efficient devices. For 2021, country’s energy efficiency was about 0.360 toe per EUR 1000 of GDP (2015 = 100) or 2.3% higher than the previous year. Despite this parameter being improved in the last 10 years, country’s energy intensity was over 3 times higher than EU average.

Final consumption to primary consumption ratio (gross inland energy consumption minus non-energy consumption) shows what portion of input energy products has reached end-users after the transformation and transmission processes. In 2021, the level of 55% reached in the previous years, was maintained. For comparison, the same indicator for EU was 73% (2020).

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