After years of anticipation, Serbia has got its first registered solar prosumers in the household sector. Miloš Lončar, a mechanical engineer from the Belgrade municipality of Zemun, has told Balkan Green Energy News about his 10-year dream to produce his own electricity and how it has finally come true.
Citizens and businesses have for years been interested in producing electricity for self-consumption, which should help cut their energy bills, but also allow them to reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions. However, this wasn’t possible until recently due to a complicated and discouraging regulatory framework and the lack of will in the government and state-owned energy companies to change the situation.
Everything turned around when Serbia passed the Law on renewable energy sources, amended the Law on energy, adopted the Decree on the criteria, conditions, and the method of billing between prosumers and suppliers, designed contract templates for prosumers, and rolled out subsidies for households to install solar panels.
Prosumers can “store” electricity surpluses produced during summer months with EPS, and then withdraw it in winter when output is lower
The status of a prosumer allows households, businesses, and residential communities to install their own power plants and produce electricity, deliver to state power utility Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) any surpluses when they generate more than they need, and withdraw energy from EPS when their output is lower.
Although it was possible to produce electricity for self-consumption even before the new rules were adopted, it wasn’t possible to feed that electricity into EPS’ grid. This is important when it comes to solar panels given that they generate more power during summer months than they do in winter. The status of a prosumer allows for “storing” any surplus with EPS in summer and withdrawing it in winter. If the amount of energy withdrawn exceeds the amount stored with EPS over a 12-month period, the prosumer pays for the difference. If the situation is reverse, EPS keeps the surplus energy.
So far, 13 household prosumers have been entered in the register: three each in Zemun and Kovačica, two in Sremska Mitrovica, and one each in Negotin, Zaječar, Raška, Ruma and Stara Pazova. Previously, German-owned relay manufacturer Gruner Serbia became the first commercial prosumer in the country.
Miloš Lončar: my 10-year dream has come true
Miloš Lončar, a mechanical engineer, is the first to be registered as a prosumer in the households sector. He recently built a house in Zemun and decided to make it as energy efficient as possible, using a heat pump, a central heating boiler, and solar panels.
Miloš says he has been advocating renewable energy sources for a long time, so that this comes as a logical step.
“I wanted to do this ten years ago, but there were numerous obstacles then. Only legal entities could do it,” Lončar told Balkan Green Energy News.
The whole procedure can be done by email
He had planned to overcome some of the obstacles by installing a system with battery storage, but as the years went by, new regulations were adopted. He also noted that after the authorities announced it was possible to become a prosumer it took some time until it was actually possible.
Getting EPS’ approval for the installation was the biggest problem, and it took six months, he says. “When I finally got it, everything else took about a month. On the other hand, the works on the house lasted about a week,” says Lončar.
Miloš warns that the procedure is not yet smooth and that citizens need to be proactive, but he says he was pleasantly surprised to see that everything can be done by email, without going anywhere.
The solar panels will generate enough electricity to cover Lončar’s consumption
The investment, of some EUR 9,000, is expected to pay off in seven to ten years, he says. Since May 5, the solar panels, whose capacity is 5 kW, have generated about 150 kWh of electricity. Lončar expects his annual consumption to be about 500 kWh and his consumption between 700 and 900 kWh, which means that there will be a surplus.
He also says that prosumers should also be allowed to sell their surpluses, to EPS or someone else, instead of just giving it to EPS for free.
Miloš’s advice is that all those who intend to install solar panels should take into account their own electricity needs when choosing the capacity of their system. “The greater the capacity the bigger the investment, and there is no benefit to producing more than you consume.” That’s why it is important, he says, to hire a good, certified contractor, which in his case was Telefon Inženjering.
Ana Džokić: excellent news, but the procedure is still complicated
Ana Džokić, an architect from Belgrade, is one of the pioneers of the struggle to democratize energy and enable citizens to produce their own green energy without a hassle. She has been trying to become a prosumer since 2016.
“It is excellent news that we finally have prosumers in the households sector, though it has been a full year since the adoption of the Law on renewable energy sources,” says Džokić, who is one of the founders of the Elektropionir energy community.
We’re going to need another round of “streamlining”
However, she says, the procedure to obtain the prosumer status is still needlessly complicated. Even though it is called a “simplified” procedure, there is still a lot of paperwork. “Now that we’ve seen the first prosumers go through the process, it seems clear to me that we’re going to need another round of streamlining,” she says.
Ana’s family has not yet obtained the status of a prosumer because they have encountered another obstacle – their house with three residential units is treated as a residential community and is subject to a different procedure. A procedure for residential communities, she explains, has not yet been prepared.
“Any household with more than two residential units is considered a residential community, which poses an obstacle for small family buildings with multiple apartments or electricity meters,” she adds.