While the EU and Croatia import over 30 percent of their energy from Russia, Germany exports just as much energy produced from renewable sources owned by citizens. While China prohibits the use of coal, must Croatia's energy future depend on fossil fuels, or can the energy come from solar and wind power that we have in abundance, and is it in our hands?
Hans Josef Fell, an experienced German parliamentarian and creator of the legislative framework that enabled the revolution of green energy technologies in Germany spoke during his visit to Zagreb on 13 -14 November about the possibilities and challenges for the Croatian green energy transition and renewable energy project (RES). A two day visit during which Hans-Josef Fell had presentations in the House of Europe and the Croatian Parliament was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Croatia. On this occasion the UNDP presented recommendations to encourage the development of energy cooperatives in Croatia aimed at decision makers.
While resistance and skepticism towards renewable energy projects are still noticeable in Croatia, European countries that successfully implement green energy transition stress the importance of active involvement of citizens in the co-ownership of RES projects.
In Germany, more than 50 percent of all plants for energy production from renewable sources are owned by the citizens and cooperatives. In this way, part of the benefits return to the local community, and development of the local economy is encouraged, as well as job creation, energy independence and resistance to the market crisis. In Denmark, the leading country in wind energy, more than 150 000 individuals are members of cooperatives through which they have stakes in more than 75 percent of all wind turbines in Denmark.
„Countries that are still run by fossil fuels and outdated technologies will lose, and countries that turn to the green energy technologies will take a step forward, and open a way to climate friendly innovations, new jobs in local communities and energy independence. I put my knowledge and expertise and the knowledge and expertise of our experts at your disposal, to assist in establishing a legal framework that will help you develop in this important sector,” emphasized Hans-Josef Fell in a lecture held in the Croatian Parliament.
Hrvoje Dokoza, Deputy Minister of Environmental and Nature Protection pointed out that the Ministry is working on a Croatian low-carbon development strategy which will give an opportunity for the development of a green economy.
Development of renewable energy sources in Croatia are based on the subsidies from a fund into which all citizens pay a fee through their electricity bills. However, citizen participation or community involvement in such projects are minimal; currently, there are no energy cooperatives, and citizens only participate in the development of solar power plants, although they make only six percent of installed capacity of renewable energy plants. The rest or 83 percent of installed capacity is made by wind power plants in which neither citizens nor energy cooperatives are included.
Therefore, the United Nations Development Programme, in cooperation with international and national partners made recommendations to encourage the development of energy cooperatives. The aims of the recommendations are to improve legislation and to encourage the development of energy co-operatives as well as citizen participation in the renewable energy projects.
The active participation of citizens in the production of renewable energy is the key to energy independence. This is also an opportunity to open 75 000 new jobs and to stimulate the development of small businesses and crafts in Croatia, as well as to stimulate economic recovery and to face the challenges of climate changes, concluded Sandra Vlašić, Head of Office of UNDP in Croatia.