Q&A with the experts – Bernard Ivčić (Croatia)

Feb 10, 2022

Our energy expert from Croatia is Bernard Ivčić. He is an activist and program coordinator in Zelena akcija / FoE Croatia, and over the years he covered various topics such as transport, energy, urbanism and waste management. He led successful campaign against construction of coal TPP Plomin C in Croatia, which ended with cancellation of the project.

1. The topic of decarbonisation and shutdown of coal power plants is very common in the EU and the countries of the region. Is there a discussion in Croatia (hereinafter: CRO) about the date of decarbonisation of the economy and how CRO plan the energy transition? (low carbon development strategy, coal phase out, and other acts).

Croatia has only one active coal TPP, and our Government has a plan to shut it down in 2033, and “possibly earlier”, as they tend to say, while position of Zelena akcija is to make a coal phase – out no later than 2026. As the cost of the produced energy from coal is getting higher, we believe they will be forced to closed that TPP much earlier than planned. However, there are some planes to switch it to gas or RDF, which we will try to stop.
As for complete decarbonisation of the economy, it is not part of any Government’s Strategy, and there are no officials even talking about it. Luckily, oil drilling in the Adriatic is not part of any serious Plan any more, largely thanks the campaign we led several years ago. However, gas phase – out is a big challenge, especially in the heating sector. Despite increase of prices, state officials are still not considering alternatives. In Zagreb and Sisak – Petrinja area abandoning gas could be even more challenging, as many houses and buildings were devastated by the two strong earthquakes in 2020. So ideally, post-earthquake reconstruction should be fossil-free, cheap, fast and efficient, and in reality, it is none of that.
Transport sector is almost entirely fossil. Many institutions still think that gas is a green fuel. Number of vehicles are strongly increasing, and electric vehicles have a share of only 0,1%, with almost nobody thinking about making modal-shift a priority over a technological innovation in transport.
Other sectors, such as agriculture, tourism, industry, retail and others, are just at the very beginning of the energy transition.

2. In the year behind us (2020), the world record was set with 260 GW of RES installed. What is the total share of RES in CRO and what are the projections for 2030? What is the most dominant source of RES used in CRO and where do you see the greatest potential for further development?
Croatia has 31,05% total share of RES, and the goal for 2030 is 39,4%. In total, we have 546 MW of installed heat capacities and 1.088 MW installed electricity capacity. Dominant source in heating is biomass and wind in electricity. There is a huge potential for solar power, both for heating and electricity, but it is essential to stimulate solarization of the rooftops and to encourage people to form energy cooperatives.

3. Based on information provided by the IEA (International Energy Agency), solar energy is currently the cheapest source of energy in history. What is the situation with the use of solar in CRO with special reference to the solar rooftop.

Electricity generation from RES in 2020 was 2.990 GWh, and of that, solar was only 95 GWh. As solar panels are becoming more and more affordable, the interest of public is clearly rising, but the result is still poor. Croatian state – owned electricity utility for many years ignored solar energy, and started showing interest only recently. Municipalities usually don’t consider energy production as something they should be involved, and there are only few examples of cities which decided f.e. to put solar panels on schools or other public institution or to actively encourage citizens for investing in solar energy. Despite the low price, we should have in mind that initial investment for rooftop solar of minimum 4.000 euros for one household, and in some cases double more, is out of the reach of many people living in Croatia. Because of that, local energy communities and energy cooperatives have large potential, as households could participate in the investment depending on their specific financial possibilities, and reducing their electricity bill this way.

4. Does the legislation CRO recognize energy cooperatives (local energy communities) and Prosumers? Give us examples of good practice.

Local energy communities are recognized in Croatian legislation, such as new Electricity Market Act and Law on Renewable Energy Sources and High-Efficiency Cogeneration. However, existing regulations are actually discouraging citizens to form local energy communities, due to the number of limitations and complicated administration. F.e. one local energy community has to be established within the border of one municipality. Croatia has more than 500 of them, some of them being very small, meaning that people living very close, but separated with the administrative border of the municipality can’t form local energy community. Additionally, all the members of energy community have to be connected to the same low voltage substation (there are over 26.000 of them in Croatia), if they want to use produced energy. There are only five active and fully functional energy cooperatives in Croatia.

5. According to Eurostat data, the average household in the EU consumes about 300 kWh per month. How much does the average household spend in CRO? How do you rate energy efficiency in CRO? Is there a regulation (law and bylaws)?

Croatia has a Law on energy efficiency, and had a four national action plans for energy efficiency, and the last one expired in 2019. Final energy intensity ratio reduced for 17% in last 20 years, however, energy consumption in housing in 2020. increased for over 3% compering to 2019. On the other hand, energy poverty is also significant problem, as according to data from 2019, over 15% of households were not able to cover their costs of energy consumption. There is a strong need for increasing energy efficiency in housing. Croatian National and Climate plan envisaged that newly build and reconstructed buildings will use 30 kWh/m2 annually and that average rate of renovation of buildings from 2021 to 2030 is 2.0% (growth from 1.0 in 2021 to 3% in 2030). However, beside the usual lack of operative skills in our institutions, this dynamic will be probably highly affected by the need for the post-earthquake reconstruction, as two earthquakes in 2020 damaged 7,6% of building stock in Croatia.