Pokupsko Municipality – Winner of EUSEW 2016 Public Sector Award

June 29, 2016

Pokupsko Municipality – Winner of EUSEW 2016 Public Sector Award

Project summary

The Municipality of Pokupsko is located in North-Western part of Croatia near the river Kupa. Surrounded by forests and hills, approximately 2.500 inhabitants in 14 settlements are living in harmony with nature. Even though the municipality has a rather limited own budget, it is developing in a most sustainable way possible and can serve as the most positive example. Through continuously investing in various projects and maximising the utilisation of financial incentives available from both national and EU funds, a considerable increase in the quality of life is visible. In the last 10 years a number of projects related directly to energy efficiency and renewable energy sources have been implemented.

EUSEW Awards_Municipality Pokupsko_Brussels
Picture 1: European commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete,  North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency, Managing Director dr. sc. Julije Domac and Major of the Municipality Pokupsko, Mr. Božidar Škrinjarić

Energy efficient street lighting, heat pumps in kindergartens and schools, photovoltaic installations and energy retrofitting of municipality building, coupled with the first and currently only communal biomass heating plant in Croatia are the projects which place Pokupsko as the leader in sustainable energy among other small cities and municipalities in South-East Europe.

Between 2008 and 2010 the modernisation of street lighting was carried out – some 900 old and inefficient lamps were replaced with new LED lamps resulting in 25 km of roads with energy efficient lighting.

In 2009 the reconstruction of the kindergarten was completed, including the instalment of a geothermal heat pump, resulting in the new building based on nearly zero energy standards. This was the very first kindergarten in Croatia heated and cooled with heat pump! The next year another geothermal heat pump was installed in the district school Hotnja, replacing an old fuel oil boiler, again leading to considerable decrease in energy consumption.

Next was the year in which the new photovoltaic system was installed on the roof of the municipal administrative building. The green electricity is used for satisfying the needs of the building, while the surplus is being delivered to the electricity grid. The energy retrofitting of the building was also carried out, resulting again in considerable savings.

In 2015, after more than six years of preparation and hard work, the first and only communal biomass heating plant was constructed which now provides heating to public and commercial buildings as well as households located in the centre. Currently 30 consumers are connected to the district heating system, while there are plans to connect other parts of the municipality.

Almost 70% of the area of the Municipality of Pokupsko is covered with forests, many of them private, and this is one of the main reasons why the biomass heating plant has been established right here. The establishment of a biomass trade and logistic centre is in progress in Pokupsko which will provide a big support to the utilisation of local wood for heating. This is a direct result of an EU funded project (BioRES project within the Horizon2020 programme) in which Pokupsko Municipality participates through the North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency.

The final result is that currently more than 75% of energy needs in Pokupsko are satisfied through local resources, with the plans to reach 100% within next five years!.

The municipality of Pokupsko has also implemented and is implementing a number of non-energy projects as well promoting European cooperation on all levels (for example, projects focused on tourism). All projects are in line with the overall vision of Pokupsko as a 100% sustainable community.

 Promotional information

Pokupsko – the first energy sustainable community in Croatia!

The municipality of Pokupsko is a strong advocate of sustainable development and environment protection. Through maximising the use of national and EU financing the municipality managed to implement a number of sustainable energy projects like reconstruction of street lighting, energy retrofitting of public buildings, installation of photovoltaics and heating pumps and the flagship project – construction of the first and only communal biomass heating plant in Croatia.

Project beneficiaries

The final beneficiaries of all projects and activities in Pokupsko are in all cases its inhabitants – the local people.

The municipality has implemented various projects in order to improve quality of life and work for the local population. Kindergarten, school and public administration employees, children, private forest owners and people living in the municipality all have benefits from developing projects related to energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.

The reconstructions and energy retrofitting of public buildings with implementation of heat pumps, photovoltaics and improved thermal insulation have diminished negative effects on nature and environment, but also resulted with lower energy costs for final consumers and improvement of working conditions. Taking into account that the costs for heating represent a significant share of the total operational costs of these buildings, the modernization of existing heating systems including their regulation and control systems is already resulting in considerable energy and cost savings. Additional financial means are now at the disposal of the local kindergarten and district elementary school which are being used for increasing the quality of education.

With the construction of the communal biomass heating plant the inhabitants have the opportunity to additionally increase their quality of life – instead of chopping wood into logs and taking care of lighting the old wood furnace, heat is now available by simply pressing a button. The price of heat is cheaper then fossil fuel options while the regulation system enables each customer to define the desired comfort levels but also monitor the consumed heat on a constant basis. One of the main customers of the new biomass heating plant is the Elementary school in Pokupsko – which is, not surprisingly, very focused on environment protection and eco topics. Through a wide range of activities the Eco-group pupils in Pokupsko are instilled with a sense of nature preservation and environment protection.

Major of the Municipality Pokupsko, Mr. Božidar Škrinjarić and North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency, Managing Director dr. sc. Julije Domac
Picture 2: Major of the Municipality Pokupsko, Mr. Božidar Škrinjarić and North-West Croatia Regional Energy Agency, Managing Director dr. sc. Julije Domac

Local awareness and knowledge dissemination on sustainable energy is also in the focus for Pokupsko – the municipality has organised several good practice example visits to similar municipalities in Austria and Slovenia, where everybody could witness all the benefits from the implementation of sustainable energy projects.

Apart from providing cheaper and environment friendly heating, an additional benefit of the new biomass heating plant is that it creates new economic activity in the area – local forest owners can supply the plant with their own biomass and either receive heat for a lower cost or directly get paid for the delivery. Creating new business opportunities and new jobs is seen by the municipality as a key issue in reversing the negative population trends which Pokupsko is facing in the last two decades.

The biomass heating plant has a strong positive social component as well and can serve as an example of social responsibility: one part of the revenues from the selling of heat is used as a scholarship for poor and needy children living in Pokupsko.

Excellence and innovation

Pokupsko is a unique example of how a small municipality with limited financial resources can develop and implement innovative sustainable energy projects.

Since 2008 several key projects have been implemented which effectively transformed the municipality of Pokupsko in an energy sustainable community:

  • Reconstruction of street lighting. The municipality decided to start its way to energy sustainability with the simplest and easiest project – by the end of 2010 a total of app. 900 lamps with bulbs were replaced with LEDs on the route of the public road, covering a distance of about 25 km. Considerable energy and financial savings are achieved each year as a result, which allowed the initiation of other projects.
  • Heat pump instalment in Pokupsko kindergarten. In 2009 the municipality managed to secure the needed financial resources for one of the first heat pumps ever installed in a public building in Croatia. The total investment for the 16 kW capacity heat pump amounted to approximately 22 thousand eur, and was financed through a subsidy from the national Fund for Environment Protection and Energy Efficiency, while the Zagreb County also contributed with a grant. Financial savings were again used to kick-start future sustainable energy projects.
  • Heat pump installment in District elementary school Hotnja. After the very positive results with the first heat pump in kindergarten, the municipality decided to replicate this project with the installation of a second heat pump (capacity 13 kW, investment approximately 18 thousand eur).
  • Installation of photovoltaic system on the municipal administrative building. In 2011 the new photovoltaic system (capacity 30 kW, investment app. 133 thousand eur) was installed which is producing green electricity. This is used to cover the needs of the administrative building, while the surplus is being delivered to the electricity grid. This provides steady monthly revenues to the municipality and is used to start further sustainability projects.
  • Energy retrofitting of municipal administrative building. In parallel with the installation of the PV system, the municipality decided to lower its costs for heating and cooling. Through the installment of new windows and thermal insulation of the administrative building these costs have been drastically reduced.
  • Construction of the communal biomass heating plant. In 2015 the Crown jewel project was completed – Croatia’s first and currently only communal biomass heating plant (capacity 1 MW, investment app. 1.2 mil eur). The construction has been financed through both the IPARD Pre-accession programme and the Fund for Environment Protection and Energy Efficiency, which is the first example of such financing scheme in Croatia. Apart from the financial part, innovative aspects of the biomass heating plant are related mostly to the social aspects – it allows the creation of new business opportunities and new jobs, while members of the Pokupsko War Veterans Association are actively included in biomass procurement. This in turn provides elements of social stability and social inclusion.

  • Education and awareness raising activities. The municipality of Pokupsko is well aware of the key success factor for the implementation of all projects: support from and cooperation with local population. Numerous education and awareness raising activities have already been organised – workshops, study tours, printing of brochures… and the results are showing!

Impact and contribution to the 2030 objectives

 The 2030 objectives include decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, higher share of renewable energy consumption and energy savings. All this and more is achieved through projects implemented in Municipality of Pokupsko. The municipality authorities initiated these projects with the goal of achieving and exceeding the targets set by European Union. The main impacts of the projects undertaken by the municipality of Pokupsko are summarised below.

With the installation of heat pump in the kindergarten annual savings of approximately 67 MWh were accomplished. The annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the reduction in energy consumption are 20 t of CO2.

Installation of heat pump in District school Hotnja brings annual savings of 19 MWh. The annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the reduction in energy consumption are 6 t of CO2.

Through the reconstruction of public lighting the achieved annual energy savings amount to 102 MWh. The annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the reduction in electricity consumption are 31 t CO2.

The photovoltaic system produces 29 MWh of green energy. The annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by this are 8 t of CO2.

The energy retrofitting of the municipal building results in 52 MWh of annual energy savings. The annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and harmful substances caused by the reduction energy consumption are 14 t of CO2.

The annual fuel savings by implementation of the biomass heating plant amount to 98.000 l of heating oil (energy content of 980 MWh). The annual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the savings are 297 t of CO2.

In total, approximately 1520 MWh of energy have been saved or replaced with renewable energy sources, leading to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 380 t per year.

All stated results have been verified by the national Fund for Environment Protection and Energy Efficiency, since the municipality has to prepare regular reports on energy savings and production of renewable energy due to the fact that the Fund has subsidised the implementation of the projects.

In addition to the impacts on energy savings, two direct jobs have been created in the municipality while the numbers of indirect and induced jobs resulting from the implementation of all mentioned projects have been estimated to be over 20.

 Replication potential and social acceptance

Except for the implemented sustainable energy projects, Pokupsko is a rather typical small rural municipality in Croatia – there are over 200 settlements with similar characteristics: a rather modest municipal budget, total population under 5.000 inhabitants and facing depopulation trends. The economy of the municipality is not in a particularly good state as well, the main sources of income for the local population being agriculture, small crafts and from recently tourism is also starting to play an important part.

What differentiates Pokupsko from the other small municipalities is the vision and commitment towards sustainable energy development, coupled with the successful utilisation of all available financial mechanisms for the implementation of such projects, both at national and EU level. In that regard Pokupsko is already serving as a role model for other small municipalities and since the opening of the biomass heating plant several study tours to Pokupsko were organised for representatives of other Croatian municipalities as well as within activities of EU projects (for example within Horizon2020). Future plans of the municipality include the establishment of a learning centre for sustainable development, with the main objective to further disseminate the knowledge and experience gained and to increase the already high replication potential of the Pokupsko sustainability model. The intention of the Pokupsko municipality is not to serve as a model for Croatian municipalities but ultimately for the wider South-East European region.

Kupa river basin (where Pokupsko is located) is among the ecologically most important areas of Croatia with a large number of protected plants and animal species. The implemented sustainable energy projects will definitely yield positive effects in terms of protection of ecologically significant areas, as well as higher quality of living for the local community. For that reason people were and are very interested in developing these projects in their municipality. The local population recognized all the benefits and actively joined the project implementation through participation in education and promotion activities, providing feedback and expressing interest in future projects.

The biomass heating plant will result in energy and financial savings for the local population, entrepreneurs as well as public institutions. All households which use firewood as primary heating fuel will get a more comfortable and quality heating and pay according to the consumption. The local population (most of them being private forest owners) also have the opportunity to deliver the fuel to the heating plant and get directly paid or get a reduction of their heating costs.

Sources of finance

Total budget: approximately ‎1.800.000 €

Budget source: EU funding, National funding, own resources

EU funding 950.000€