City of Pirot will soon meet all EU environmental standards

March 22, 2017

Photo: City of Pirot
City of Pirot will soon meet all EU environmental standards

Vladan Vasić, Mayor of Pirot, told Balkan Green Energy News the local authority is preparing, in an extension of cooperation with KfW Development Bank, to complete the overhaul and rehabilitation of the district heating system. The endeavour centralizes this part of infrastructure, significantly reduces pollution and brings savings. Encouraged by good experiences, the city applied for the participation in phase 5 of the project, our interviewee revealed.

Aspirations are big in the field of environmental protection and sustainable energy development. Especially important is the first public-private partnership (PPP) for the contract scheme for the delivery of heat energy which envisages the reconstruction of boilers and heating facilities in four schools, with the introduction of biomass, Vasić said. The capacities for waste collection and wastewater processing are under development, and basic steps have been made in the segment of energy efficiency in buildings. Pirot, located in Serbia’s southeast close to the Bulgarian border, got its status upgraded last year from a municipality to a city.

Recently you stated Pirot would be one of the first cities in the country which is ecologically prepared for Europe. What was done altogether to get to that point?  

The City of Pirot has for many years been implementing systemic measures in the area of environmental protection, improvement of energy efficiency and utilization of renewable energy sources. The initial steps were related to drafting regulations the local authority is responsible for, as a necessary precondition for the quality of desired activities.

After that, particular projects have been rolled out starting with the smallest ones, with minimal investments, all the way to the grand and complex ones, which will have long-lasting effect. Among them, the construction of a regional landfill and the modernization of the waste collection system especially stand out. In the sector of water supply and wastewater there is the replacement of old asbestos pipes and the construction of sewage in six villages, and in the district heating system the construction of a new, central plant and the new parts of the distribution network, as well as energy rehabilitation of public buildings and engaging the potential of renewables. All these activities substantially drive down pollution and significantly improve the quality of life.

We plan to improve energy properties of residential buildings, upgrade the public lighting system and to stimulate the construction of capacities for the use of renewables. A big project of the construction of a wastewater treatment facility has started. We also present to our citizens and affirm the significance of environmental protection, improvement of energy efficiency and the use of renewables.

Our results and activities show we are on a good way to reach all standards of the European Union in the area of ecology, making Pirot a city ecologically prepared for Europe.

In KfW bank’s programme for upgrading the district heating system the City of Pirot also participated. What are the results? How much has energy consumption been reduced?

The City of Pirot participated in phases 3 and 4 of the programme. The system was completely reconstructed and conceptually overhauled. Instead of a system with five isolated boilers in districts, we got a centralized system with one heating plant. Within the project, the five boilers were shut down and a new, central one was built. The distribution network was completely reconstructed and enlarged, substations with proper control and measuring equipment were installed, and so was the central control facility. The result is a new system, which is energy efficient, ecologically acceptable and economically rational. Also, technical conditions were met to charge heating according to consumption, and at this moment it covers about 80% of heated surface. As a direct consequence, the consumption of energy was taken down 15%.

What kind of experiences does Pirot have with the public-private partnership model? What is the status of PPP in the delivery of heating to schools?

PPP as a model of cooperation between the public and private sectors has many advantages, so according to our situation on the local level and our conditions, we recognized it as possible and acceptable solutions for some of our problems, above all in utilities.

The first one that we set in motion was the project of heating system rehabilitation in the secondary school for dairy industry and three primary schools. We have old, inefficient boilers which use heating oil, an inefficient and ecologically unacceptable fuel. The distance from the district heating system and high price for a connection directed us to search for a solution in setting up highly efficient boilers which will use biomass as fuel.

We saw the most acceptable way in a PPP model which would include the replacement of boilers and a contract scheme for the delivery of heat energy. It is the first of the kind in Serbia, so as pioneers we are very proud we succeeded. We have just signed a contract with company GGE ESCO, which won the open competition. Preparations will be done during the summer,  so that delivery of heat energy can start at the beginning of the next heating season according to the contract . Our investment in this business equals zero. The private partner is investing own funds in equipment, new boilers (two in each school), maintenance, fuel supply. We as a city pay the contracted price for delivered heat energy, and on top of that we have new, energy efficient heating systems, which are also ecological, because biomass or, more accurately, wood chips will be utilized.

Another one is the project for upgrading the public lighting system. We expect a positive opinion from the Commission for Private Public Partnership, after which the process of the selection of the private partner will begin. The expected result of the project’s implementation is the establishment of a more advanced, more energy efficient and cheaper system of public lighting.

What else was done to increase energy efficiency in buildings in cooperation with GIZ, and are any more activities in plan within GIZ’s project for public buildings?

Building management in our city, in public as well as private sphere, is characterized by big consumption of energy, but also by a great potential for savings.

The long-term cooperation with GIZ resulted in the establishment of the local typology of the residential building stock of the city of Pirot, the production of the first 11 energy passports, and the most significant result: the local action plan for the improvement of energy efficiency in the residential sector. Our wish is to continue, and at this moment we are cooperating on project ‘Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings in Serbia’.

Besides GIZ, we collaborate with other partners, like the Public Investment Management Office of the Government of Serbia. This is where we implement of energy rehabilitation of public buildings. The process of drafting project documentation for buildings of two schools is in its final stage, and the project is expected to be launched this year.

When will the city’s energy efficiency fund be established, what assets will be available and what kind of projects will it work in?

The foundation and functioning of a budget fund for energy efficiency is the central activity in the process of implementation of the local action plan. The decision on its establishment was made at a meeting of the city assembly on March 17. The fund’s annual work programme is under development. For this year’s activities RSD 15 million (EUR 121,000) was allocated, with the possibility, depending on success and the dynamics of fund inflows by the end of the year, for the sum to be enlarged.

Plans include co-financing of energy rehabilitation measures – thermal insulation of façades, replacement of external joinery and metalwork, replacement or reconstruction of the heating system, installation of devices for the measurement of heat consumption as well as the co-financing of a study on energy efficiency in single-family and multiple family buildings.

How is the waste management system organized in Pirot and are you planning any significant investments?

During the past several years our city has invested substantial funds in the improvement of the system. In its significance, the scope of works and investment size, the construction of the regional landfill particularly stands out. It was done in cooperation with EU funds, and technically and technologically it is the most modern facility of its kind in the country. The investment is worth EUR 5.3 million, and it is designed to last for 25 years.

In the field of waste collection we continually increase the scope of households, and now it is very big, because besides the city organized waste collection is conducted in 47 out of 72 villages. Also, measures are being implemented to help organizations working in the recovery of secondary raw materials.

The city’s plan for the immediate future is to form a complete waste management system with a maximum reach, primary and secondary selection, modern landfilling and significant use of the potentials of waste, above all in energy. This kind of system was self-sufficient for many years. In that spirit, steps have already been taken and we hope we will begin to make it real.

What did the city do to elevate the citizens’ awareness?

Parallel to construction works and installation of equipment, our citizens are being informed about the efficient use of energy and about environmental protection. We promote ideas of sustainable development of our community to the preferred target group of youth of all ages and adapted to their age, with the aim to develop awareness and adopt positive habits. An established practice is the regular and active participation of all our institutions and agencies in the projects being introduced by state authorities and organizations as well as the non-governmental sector.

Some of the activities we are trying to execute through the educational system as well, where for instance we are considering the possibility to introduce curriculum to educate technicians for energy efficiency in our engineering school.

The vision for the future is to live in a city in which energy is used rationally, mostly from local renewable sources, in which environmental protection is important and a city that is a desirable place for living for future generations.