August 4, 2020 — Bringing solar energy to 10 Croatia cities will create up to 8,000 green jobs annually, through community-led energy transition.
The aim of the SOL4ALL project, funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Climate KIC Cities Accelerator Program, is to accelerate the post COVID-19 recovery. They plan to install 1,000 solar photovoltaic systems on the roofs of urban households, according to Emanuela Barbirogilio for Forbes.
As European countries plan their recovery from COVID-19, the program helps citizens rebuild in a more resilient manner. EIT Climate-KIC selected a total of 11 projects across Europe to receive funding through the Pandemic Response Projects. Along with the Venture Support Instrument, these projects are part of the €60 million EIT Crisis Response Initiative launched in May.
Solar Power Integral to EU COVID-19 Recovery
“We learned from this crisis that we cannot afford to go back to business-as-usual. That’s why acting on climate change by innovation is integral to the European recovery plan,” explains EIT Climate-KIC’s CEO Kirsten Dunlop. “I’m very impressed by the quality of the submissions. I also believe that the successful projects have a great potential to mitigate the socio-economic impact of COVID-19. They support job creation and unlock opportunities to create systems resilience in the European Union and advance the green recovery.”
EIT covered 85% of the total budget for SOL4ALL, which amounts to €121.000. Construction began in July and installing the 300 KW panels will take about six months.
Partners include Croatian green energy cooperative Zelena energetska zadruga (ZEZ), Slovenian institute for sustainable development e-Zavod, and German start-up ZOLAR.
“We engaged and mobilized the community by identifying stakeholders. Therefore, we reached out to households, unemployed people, solar entrepreneurs and companies,” reveals Melani Furlan, community energy specialist and project manager at ZEZ.
Cooperatives Connect Households and Entrenpreneurs
“The business model for community-led solarization incorporated local solar cooperatives as a key element. Cooperatives act as community energy hubs, connecting private households willing to invest in rooftop solar with local entrepreneurs in solar energy. We can use these local hubs to strengthen local resilience in the long run.”
By the end of 2020, ZEZ hopes to involve at least 1,000 citizens, train 30 installers and solar ambassadors, establish two solar cooperatives and engage two neighboring countries. During the project, they will launch a national campaign for solar energy and connect with the National Fund Call.
The new solar ‘toolkit’ will focus on unemployed people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 crisis. And the strategy would entail an investment of €10-15 million each year.
Croatia Job Loss May Reach 160,000 by 2021
By May 2020, about 25,000 people in Croatia lost their jobs because of the pandemic. And forecasts indicate 160,000 more will become unemployed in the next months. By 2021, unemployment may peak at 26 percent, and large numbers of young educated people will continue to emigrate.
Currently, Croatia is highly energy dependent and imported energy accounts for over 53% of total consumption.
Additionally, SOLVIS, the country’s largest solar PV manufacturer, exports most of their product. In fact, Croatia has one of the lowest shares of photovoltaic power in its electricity portfolio among EU member states.
With the implementation of projects like SOL4ALL, annual carbon emissions will fall by 467,000 TCO2.
“I think the biggest challenge is showing that Croatia and Slovenia are ideal candidates for selling solar power to utility companies. Then, utility companies can sell this energy to other customers. They can also find partners needed to carry out the project, in terms of finance, engagement, social support and political expertise,” explains Thomas Osdoba, senior advisor at EIT Climate-KIC.
Croatia Solar Investment Could Create 3,000 to 8,000 Jobs
“We are trying to show that Croatia and Slovenia can quickly embrace innovation, which many cities are still struggling to address. They can consolidate and work together as a cooperative. Furthermore, this demonstrates how to move faster and incorporate renewable energy into the electricity blend. Everybody needs a boost in this direction, even leaders like Germany or Portugal.”
Presently, Croatia has about 54 MW of installed solar photovoltaic capacity. The Croatia Energy Strategy envisages 768 MW by 2030 and 2,700 MW by 2050.
“We are encouraging cities and citizens to support the 2,700 MW target so we can reach it sooner than 2050,” Furlan adds. “Anticipated investment is in the range of €600-900 and would create between 3,000 and 8,000 green jobs annually.”
Cities have been hit most by the crisis, due to urban energy drought and a service-centered economy. However, Osdoba believes that local communities are “ready to start and lead the transformation process towards clean energy.”
Follow our Business page to keep updated on solar power initiatives and developments in Croatia. Check out the EIT Climate-KIC page for Croatia here. Finally, the Croatia Green Energy Cooperative (Zelena energetska zadruga) page is here.