In Slovenia, a renewable energy community installed the first photovoltaic system for joint self-supply. The Zeleni Hrastnik energy cooperative set up the solar power facility on the roof of People’s Hero Rajko Hrastnik elementary school. Members of the Sunny School Hrastnik energy community are consuming the electricity.
The photovoltaic plant, with a capacity of 300 kW, is also one of the largest in the category of prosumers in Slovenia, according to non-governmental organization Focus.
The rooftop solar power installation will supply 16 apartments in the nearby residential area, the municipality building, the school itself, a swimming pool, a small business space and two private firms.
The project was implemented by the Zeleni Hrastnik energy cooperative, founded in 2022, with the support of the Municipality of Hrastnik and the Focus NGO. The technical part of the project was implemented by solar energy solutions provider Kisik. The PV system was funded by the members of the cooperative (20%) and the Government of Slovenia (20%) and through a favorable loan from Slovenia’s Eco Fund (Eko Sklad).
When the loan is paid off, the electricity bills will be reduced by approximately 65%
Focus highlighted the renewable energy community model. Everyone involved in Sunny School Hrastnik: 17 natural persons, two firms and the municipality – are members of the Zeleni Hrastnik energy cooperative. They co-own the solar power plant and consume the electricity it generates.
Over the first thirteen years, electricity bills of the members of the energy community will be 30% lower. When the loan is repaid, the cost drops to 65% below the initial level as they will be paying only for maintenance and operating costs.
Focus claimed cooperatives are the best model for local renewables projects, arguing that it’s the community enjoying the benefits, they involve the population, and joint resources are managed democratically, under the principle one member – one vote.
Other local authorities are interested in the concept, of which the Municipality of Ig initiated self-supply projects for consumers via a newly founded cooperative, the organization added.
Of note, Ljubljana has recently announced the intention to establish energy community.
An example of a grassroots just green transition
Mayor of Hrastnik Marko Funkl said the establishment of such communities is the future for municipalities and society as a whole.
Making pioneering steps seems like a difficult task, but there are already many good practices in the world that, with the appropriate support of the government and other stakeholders, can bring good results, he added.
The participants in the project overcame many obstacles to establish an energy community, so anyone interested in following the same path can learn from the experience, according to Boštjan Remić from Focus. The Zeleni Hrastnik energy cooperative is an example of a grassroots just green transition, he said.
New projects are being prepared in Hrastnik
Božidar Roglič, head of the Zeleni Hrastnik energy cooperative, pointed out that the regulatory framework allowed only the consumers connected to the same substation as the elementary school to be included in the energy community.
Other residents in the municipality are interested in such projects, so they are underway, he said.
As for Serbia, the first rooftop PV systems installed by an energy cooperative in Serbia are in two villages on Mt. Stara planina. They were completed in August.