Three municipalities in the Šalek valley in Slovenia signed a cooperation agreement with the utility firm in Velenje and with TEŠ, the operator of the Šoštanj coal power plant, on switching their district heating system from coal to heat pumps, solar power plants, and cogeneration.
The Savinja and Šalek area (Slov. Savinjsko-Šaleška regija – SAŠA) and Zasavje are Slovenia’s coal regions. Along with other local economies dependent on the coal industry in the European Union, they are eligible to receive public funds for their energy transition.
The municipalities of Velenje, Šoštanj, and Šmartno ob Paki plan to tap on the EU’s Just Transition Fund together with TEŠ – part of state-owned power producer Holding Slovenske Elektrarne (HSE) – and Komunalno Podjetje Velenje (KPV) for the decarbonization of the district heating system in the Šalek valley. The three local authorities own KPV.
KPV said they would produce project documentation for the gradual transition to renewable energy sources. The deal is also the first step in eliminating CO2 emissions from the coal region.
Šaleška valley must phase out coal within ten years
Under the cooperation agreement, experts from both sides will prepare a joint concept, the Velenje utility firm said.
It includes the installation of heat pumps paired with solar power plants at the location of the TEŠ coal plant and a cogeneration facility that would use different fuels together with a heat pump at the local wastewater treatment plant. The district heating network is planned to be modernized.
Heat pumps and photovoltaic facilities are to be installed at the TEŠ site
The Šalek valley must switch to clean energy within ten years, so it is necessary to define investments and measures as soon as possible to restructure the district heating system, KPV said and added that the TEŠ site is excellent.
KPV and the municipalities plan to jointly apply for the money from the Just Transition Fund this year.
Of note, Slovenia plans to phase out coal in 2033.
The district heating system supplies more than 35,000 consumers
The first phase of the transformation of the district heating system is already underway. It is envisaged to reduce CO2 emissions and coal consumption by 25,269 and 21,150 tons per year, respectively, and result in annual heat savings of 76,559 MWh or about 25%. At the beginning of next year, KPV plans to start renewing the distribution network and the installation of the first renewable electricity plant.
The district heating system in the Šalek valley supplies more than 35,000 consumers.
The agreement was signed by the general manager of TEŠ Branko Debeljak, KPV’s manager Gašper Škarja and the municipality chiefs: Peter Dermol (Velenje), Boris Goličnik (Šoštanj) and Janko Kopušar (Šmartno ob Paki).