Energy  |  Successes  |  18.12.2013

Energy cooperative for the Island of Krk

Imagine an island with zero carbon dioxide emission… fiction or reality?  Reality, if you include the local population in this transformation process. Or at least this is what the Zero Emission Development Strategy revealed in the case of Krk Island in the Adriatic Sea. The strategy that was developed by a German consultancy and financed by the GIZ outlined the roadmap to be followed for the island to become energy independent and neutral in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.

 

Wind energy was the backbone of this strategy in addition to an innovative approach to create a reversible pumped hydro systems combined with the wind turbines. This would enable the island to store energy in water reservoirs at higher elevations when there is excess of wind, such as at night time, and use the stored energy during peak hours through pumping it downhill. A similar concept is being developed by the island El Hierro in the Canaries. 

But even if this system is implemented Krk, would that ensure the islands energy independence? Energy independence requires much more than high tech solutions. It is essential to involve the local people who live on the island. These are the owners of the roof tops that can be used for PV systems, they are also the ones that generate and sort organic waste so that it could be used for biogas production. 

The island’s zero emission strategy was developed in collaboration with Ponikve d.o.o., the local waste and wastewater management company.  After initial review it was decided that the only way the island could become energy independent was by including the citizens in the transformation process. Henceforth, in 2012 Ponikve established an energy cooperative together with three municipalities, a local NGO and 24 private citizens. 

The cooperative first sought to increase awareness among the local population about renewable energy and this was done through organising lectures in every municipality on the island. In 2012, when the cooperative was established, the legislative situation regarding solar PV was very favourable. The Feed in Tariff for integrated solar PV systems was around 0.5 EUR/kWh and the government introduced new regulations that simplified obtaining all the necessary permits. From taking up to one year, the process was shortened to three months. This created large interest in solar PV including from the Energy cooperative Island of Krk. 

Within the zero emission strategy, Ponikve developed an inventory of the islands roofs, where solar PV systems could be placed. Since the majority of sites are on private roofs, the cooperative opted for a model which could help private roof owners install the PV system at a competitive price. Data about potential investors and their roofs was collected through a questionnaire sent out to every address on the island. The cooperative received 202 replies from people confirming their interest in installing a PV system. 

In the second step, offers from potential contractors were collected. Since the cooperative requested an offer for all 202 roofs the price of installing solar PV went down dramatically. For instance, the price of the technology went from 33.000 - 40.000 EUR to 15.000 - 17.500 EUR for a turnkey contract. Moreover, the cooperative managed to decrease the costs of obtaining the required permits to just 250 EUR. The prices for a solar PV system went down because of the scale of the cooperative and their greater negotiating power. 

The Croatian feed in tariff systems did provide at the time competitive tariffs, but it also regulated the total amount of installed capacity from solar. The quota systems allowed 15 MW of integrated solar capacity to be added within one year. Considering the large interest in solar energy at that time, the yearly quota filled up within the first few weeks of the year. This hampered the cooperatives plans to develop private PV systems. The efforts were made even harder this year when the government decided to decrease the quota to just 5 MW. 

The unfavourable legislative environment hampered the cooperatives plans in terms of solar energy. But the zero emissions strategy envisaged much more than solar. Henceforth, the cooperative is now working on developing a biogas plant, for which a feasibility study has been carried out. Also it is planning to implement electric vehicles for the islands public transportation system and develop electric vehicle recharging stations. 

The major projects that have been developed on the island includes a solar 133 kW PV system on the roof of a waste sorting building and a waste management system, where 40% of all waste gets sorted (a record for Croatia). These projects were however implemented by Ponikve and the first cooperatively owned and developed projects are yet to be seen. But it has to be understood that this is the first initiative of this kind in Croatia. As such the Energy cooperative on the Island of Krk is breaking the ice and preparing the ground for those that will follow. 

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