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Electrifying refugee households with solar panels

Published

January 27, 2016

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Published:

January 27, 2016

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Five families in Karlovac county in central Croatia got electricity, but not from national power utility HEP Group, but thanks to a pilot project by the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund (FZOEU), the United Nations Development Programme and the regional authority, which hosted the presentation. Novosti, Croatian weekly magazine and portal published by the Serb National Council, reported solar systems were financed with HRK 303,000 (EUR 39,800), from which 78% was provided by the fund. The county funded 15% of the project and UNDP gave the rest. Practice showed connecting the isolated households to the grid isn’t profitable, but that this way they can produce their own power. The area was devastated during the war and villages remained isolated from infrastructural systems for two decades since the cessation of hostilities.

This way another 60 families throughout the country will get electricity by the end of the year. „It may not seem as big investment, but for the people who were without power it surely means a lot. We are ready for similar projects to come, as unfortunately there are still households out of reach of electricity supply,“ head of Karlovac County Ivan Vučić said.

Sven Müller, chief of FZOEU, said he hopes the 60 other families will opt not to leave the areas where so far they didn’t have basic living conditions. People who are secluded from the power grid got the opportunity for the first time to reach a minimum standard of life with a modern and available technology, to finally have electricity at home, he stressed. „I wish HEP can open its eyes and understand it should, actually, continue these activities. From its basic earnings it is able to, much easier than the county and the fund, and I believe HEP will change its stance on renewable energy sources, which is necessary. We also expect a cadastre of such households to be produced so that these activities can be continued,“ Müller said.

„The people are the centre of development and the centre of our profession, and the people who live in rural areas are in several times more unfavourable position than the rest of the population, because they don’t have access to electrical energy,“ said Sandra Vlašić, who leads UNDP’s office in Croatia. „New technologies make it possible much cheaper than by a classical extension of the power grid, and such a solution is, environmentally, several times more favourable, as it reduces carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. By utilizing domestic technology we simultaneously stimulate maintaining green jobs in Croatia.“

UNDP’s Mislav Kirac, who oversaw operations on a daily basis, said the people are thrilled they can finally own a refrigerator, to listen to the radio and watch television, to use a washing machine, and for free. The solar systems include batteries with storage for three days for the events of fog or other bad weather. The equipment will for the time being remain in county’s ownership so that the people wouldn’t need to maintain it by themselves. For the objects several kilometers away from the power grid, solar systems are up to 25 times cheaper than building power grid close to the facility, taking into account the total cost of ownership in 25 years, the lifetime of the equipment and system maintenance, according to UNDP. „We believe everyone in Croatia who still lives without access to power in the areas where the grid was destroyed in the war will soon get solar systems enabling access to electricity just like for all other citizens and that this way we will contribute to the reduction of regional and social inequality in Croatia,“ Vlašić added.

Life without electrical energy, refrigerator and television is a reality for several thousand houses of former refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Returnees to the village of Očijevo near Martin Brod in the country’s west lived without power for 14 years after the civil war ended and they came home! The grid had been destroyed, and the electric power company couldn’t break even in the project to install a line and substation for just 30 households 20 kilometres away from the town of Drvar. So the people relied on lanterns and candles, until the United Nations Development Programme secured solar panels to be installed through its Green Economic Development project.

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