Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities and the North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency
The SUSTAINCO project—funded by Intelligent Energy Europe —aims to support the implementation of the Recast EPBD into national legislation. The project will raise awareness of NZEBs in rural areas and facilitate knowledge transfer between partner countries through capacity building efforts—seminars, training for project developers, site visits, demonstrations, etc. It will run from 2012-2015 in seven partner countries—Croatia, Norway, Ireland (2 projects), England, Austria, Romania and Spain.
The project partners are: REGEA – North-West Croatia Energy Agency,EF – The Energy Farm (Norway),TEA – Tipperary Energy Agency (Ireland),LIT – Limerick Institute of Technology (Ireland), SWEA – Severn Wye Energy Agency (UK), ESV – O.O. Energiesparverband (Austria), LEV – Landesenergieverein (Austria), ALEA – Alba Local Energy Agency (Romania) and iMAT – Construction Technology Centre (Spain).
The main project activity is the development of common NZEB toolkits for technical and financial aspects of energy efficiency and renewable energy in NZEBs. Eight high-profile NZEB projects—one in each partner country—will be supported from concept to implementation, providing the skills and knowledge to develop a further 50 NZEB projects in partner countries. SUSTAINCO will also provide an advice service for building professionals, developers, planners and any other interested parties.
The project coordinator is North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency (REGEA). REGEA was established in 2008 under the Intelligent Energy Europe programme as the first energy agency in Croatia—with the main objective of promoting and encouraging sustainable development, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. The agency has 22 employees, mostly engineers and economists divided into two sections—Energy Consulting and Energy Analysis and Support. In 2010,REGEA won the 2011 ManagEnergy Award—the project promoted the installation domestic solar energy systems.
ManagEnergy spoke to Milka Hrbud of REGEA spoke about the SUSTAINCO project and how EU membership will improve energy efficiency in Coratia.
What finance model was used for the 8 NZEB projects in partner countries?
The SUSTAINCO project budget includes the 8 high profile projects—the conceptual design for each project (pre-feasibility study), monitoring, support and mentoring (consulting activities), and subcontracting local experts (architects, engineers, spatial planners).
Each project partner also had to find sources of co-financing these projects—investments were sought from the regional and local government and building owners.
One pilot projects in Croatia is co-financed by the regional government, the national Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund.
What were the most difficult challenges?
The economic crisis in partner countries meant that there was very little new development in the construction industry—especially in rural locations. Some existing building stock has undergone maintenance works, refurbishment or construction of extensions.
Currently, there is little interest in going beyond minimum standards—the economic crisis has led to low cost buildings and developments with maximum profit being constructed first.
What benefits have you seen so far?
REGEA set a more ambitious target—one pilot per partner region—and is supporting the development of four NZEB projects in Croatia. Since 2008, REGEA have been cooperating with regional governments, cities and municipalities on low energy refurbishment of schools, kindergartens and health facilities—carrying out prefeasibility studies, monitoring and evaluation. Many of these projects were co-financed by national institutions (such as Energy Efficiency Fund).
Croatian building regulations do not specify low energy criteria and the national government has not yet to adopt the NZEB definition.
How has this project affected attitudes towards low energy design and NZEB in Croatia? Has there be an increased demand for low energy design?
REGEA has collaborated with the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund to encourage the implementation of renewables as well as envelope refurbishment in residential houses—introducing refurbishment, renewables, the NZEB standard and financing models to the wider public. Citizen’s attitudes are being collected through the advice service—telephone and e-mail enquiries—which shows that interest in low energy design is increasing.
The first Croatian SUSTAINCO testing results—measuring awareness in this field together with motivation to participate in NZEB related projects and activities—showed that knowledge of NZEB left a lot of space for improvement. However, during the last year SUSTAINCO has carried out many awareness raising activities at conferences and seminars. As such, the second round of testing is expected to show increased knowledge and motivation for investing in projects in North-West Croatia.
What is the state of play for NZEBs in Croatia?
In 2012, the Ministry of Construction and Physical Planning (MGIPU) announced that introduction of the NZEB standard as an important activity to increasing overall energy efficiency in Croatia. However, the NZEB standard has yet to be defined and plans to increase the number of NZEB buildings—based on cost optimality principle—need to be outlined.
At the end of last year, a new Croatian methodology for energy audits was introduced. However, the annual heating requirement calculation—the amount of heating required to maintain the indoor design temperature in a building during the heating period over one year—is still the main indicator of energy performance. The primary energy consumption calculation is not been used.
What impact do you expect Coraita’s accession to the EU to have on this project and future projects in REGEA?
Croatia’s accession to the EU will accelerate the transposition of all European Directives (EPBD, EED and RES) into national legislation. It will increase the drive towards more energy efficient buildings. The EU Regions Meet Croatia conference in Brussels at the beginning of 2013 was the best indicator that Croatia is welcome in Europe.