ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 owns and manages the first lignite-fired thermal power plant in Southeast Europe, which operates in full compliance with the highest European standards for occupational safety and environmental protection. The power plant generates 10% of Bulgaria’s annual electricity production, using local energy sources and thus contributing to ensuring the energy security and independence of the country. Over 1.4 billion levs have been invested in guaranteeing the TPP’s reliable operation, and in environmental protection measures. Its shareholders are the international energy company ContourGlobal (with a 73% stake) and the National Electricity Company (27%).
With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring, ContourGlobal, as a global investor with business in 21 countries across three continents, decided to restructure its 2020 Social Investment Strategy to better support the fight against COVID-19 in the countries where it operates. The substantial budget that ContourGlobal allocates annually to social investment has been entirely redirected to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic, focusing on the worst-hit parts of the world and where local communities are most in need of support.
ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 donates to the United Against COVID-19 Fund
Following this social strategy, in April ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP donated 100,000 levs to manage the coronavirus epidemic in Bulgaria. The funds were directed to the United Against COVID-19 Fund, established under the initiative of the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum (BDF), the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the American Chamber of Commerce and the United States Embassy in Bulgaria. The fund’s goal was to pool the efforts of responsible businesses in the country and support medical institutions and local communities across the country by funding projects for overcoming the healthcare and social consequences of the pandemic.
“We are part of the local community and we cannot remain indifferent in this complicated situation for everyone. Our goal was to help increase the response potential of healthcare facilities and healthcare professionals who are on the frontline in the fight against the virus. We are glad that the fund managed to raise over 1 million levs within a short period of time and the funding reached over 700,000 people in hundreds of towns and villages across the country,” says Krassimir Nenov, Executive Director of ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3.
The United Against COVID-19 Fund helped medical institutions and non-governmental organisations, engaged in caring for the most vulnerable groups of the population – the elderly living alone, the ailing, the unemployed, the poor and the children, by providing them with food, medical supplies and protective equipment. The money raised supported 106 projects in 28 hospitals, eight specialised healthcare centers, 15 municipalities, 37 non-profit organisations, two schools and eight micro-businesses. Most of the funds were allocated to municipal hospitals and medical centres in small towns and villages, including Stara Zagora and the Galabovo municipality where ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP is located.
“In these difficult times which are putting to test the capability of our healthcare system, we wanted to lend a hand to everyone working on the frontline. We believe that the business must take its important part in the fight against COVID-19, ”Nenov adds.
ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP is one of the largest donors in the region of Stara Zagora and Galabovo. The unexpected spread of the dangerous virus made the company revise some of the planned investments under the Beyond Energy corporate social responsibility programme. “Some of our plans were postponed due to the social distancing measures that were introduced, others are being redesigned so as to be of maximum benefit to the local community in these unforeseen circumstances,” says Nadya Sinigerska-Bohorova, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development Manager at ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3.
“We are working on many new projects that are directly or indirectly related to the fight against COVID-19 and will benefit different groups. With our partners from the United Nations Global Compact Network Bulgaria, the Bulgarian Donors’ Forum and the Bulgarian Fund for Women, for example, we identified the need to support crisis centres for violence victims,” she notes, adding, “ That is why we are currently implementing a project for the full renovation and re-equipment of the Samaritan House the crisis centre in Stara Zagora, providing healthy conditions for both clients and staff of the social service.”
“At ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP, we have always believed that a successful business should be a responsible citizen, taking care of the community in which it operates,” she comments.
Providing capacity in COVID-19 conditions: The experience of ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP
During the pandemic, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP continues to contribute to the energy security of the country through the reliable operation of its production capacities. The power plant produced 1% of the total electricity consumed in the country in the January 1 – May 31 period under the strictest sanitary and restrictive measures. Even before the epidemic situation deteriorated, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP updated its contingency plan to ensure the uninterrupted operation of its 908 MW capacity, including the possibility to operate in isolation, if necessary.
“With the emergence of the COVID-19 threat, we were aware that the power plant needed urgent measures to ensure the employees’ safety in the first place, as that is of paramount importance for any organisation. It is clear to all that even the most up-to-date facility cannot function without a healthy and well-trained team,” says Nikolay Kolev, Health, Safety and Security Manager at ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3. “This is not only about our employees but about everyone who works on the power plant’s premises – subcontractors, suppliers, visitors.”
The employees and subcontractors with whom the plant works underwent special emergency training and the access of outsiders was restricted as much as possible. “We reorganised the work of our entire staff, and for those employees whose functions do not necessarily require them to be on site at the power plant, we created conditions for working remotely from home,” Kolev adds.
Everyone who enters the TPP must go through a body temperature measurement with a remote thermometer and hand disinfection. Additional measures have been taken for permanent disinfection of workplaces, portals, sanitary and shared areas in the power plant. The vehicles with which the employees commute to work, as well as the heavy mechanization are also subject to disinfection. The power plant provides protective equipment and organises the work process in a way that creates a distance between employees of at least two metres. When people need to come in close contact, wearing additional personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and goggles is mandatory.
The power plant employs nearly 500 people, plus more than 1,000 subcontractors. Adding the supply companies and the subcontractors from the Stara Zagora region, the indirect employment reaches more than 4,000 people.
At the beginning of July, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP started the annual planned overhaul of its capacities. The works, engaging additional external partners, are being carried out under the strictest safety measures in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. All employees and subcontractors are subjected to regular PCR tests for virus detection before being admitted to the TPP’s site. During the overhaul, more than 1,000 people from over 12 external companies work daily on the territory of the power plant.
The large-scale modernisation of the power plant performed a few years ago resulted in extending the plant life by at least 15 years. A large part of the investment was dedicated to improving the plant’s environmental performance, making it the first lignite-fired plant in Southeast Europe which complies with the highest European environmental norms. In recent years ContourGlobal made additional investments for improving the environmental performance of the plant ensuring that it complies with stricter emission norms.
Earlier in 2020, ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP introduced virtual monitoring technology, which allows for remote safety inspections, as well as for providing, in case of need, remote technical support, with minimal human presence at the specific location. The innovation is based on smart glasses and web connectivity via smartphone to a remote electronic device, which broadcast video in real time and allow for interactive collaboration between remote teams of experts and a specialist wearing smart glasses on site. This innovation is particularly useful today, in a global pandemic, as it minimises the need to gather many people in one place and allows the involvement of professionals from around the world. The technology allows for remote audits and besides ContourGlobal Maritsa East 3 TPP, it is being applied in all other ContourGlobal power plants. “The last few months have necessitated maximum mobilisation of the technological resources we have at our disposal to meet the challenges of the pandemic. The opportunity to cooperate with colleagues from several continents in the search for innovative solutions and practices contributes to the safe operation of the plant,” says Nenov.
The supply of the company’s European assets with virtual smart glasses began in April, and the training of the teams to work with them lasted about a month. Video connection allows the involvement of multinational teams in solving various problems and adapting common rules in the company’s various power plants around the world. ContourGlobal has been implementing similar technological innovations in several of its TPPs since 2019. As part of the preventive measures for optimising operation in a global pandemic, ContourGlobal also performed successful tests of systems for remote control and work in isolation mode in some of its power plants.