Citizens of Šabac have founded the first energy cooperative in Serbia, called Sunny Roofs. The cooperative will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign for its first project, the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) plant on the roofs of public heating utility Toplana-Šabac.
Energy cooperatives have become an increasingly common model for citizens’ involvement in energy transition in Europe over the last few years, while the most active one in the region is the Green Energy Cooperative or ZEZ (Zelena energetska zadruga).
Renewables can reduce fossil fuel use, heating and electricity costs, but also help reduce emissions
Slobodan Jerotić, director of Toplana-Šabac, has told Balkan Green Energy News that the Sunny Roofs is open to new members, regardless of their place of residence.
The initiative came from a desire to show that it is possible to bring together people of similar interests around a good idea, he said. The main goal is to implement a project that offers an alternative solution for municipal energy issues.
Renewables can reduce fossil fuel use, heating and electricity expenses, but also help cut emissions, Jerotić noted.
However, an energy cooperative is based not only on the enthusiasm of individuals but also on commercial grounds. Energy produced from PV plants, for example, installed on the roofs of houses or public buildings generates revenue from electricity sale or cuts power expenses if used for own consumption.
Energy cooperatives are “invisible” to financial institutions in Serbia
“This is the first energy cooperative in Serbia, and apart from experience from the EU, its founders had to rely on their own understanding of legislation and technical regulations, Jerotić said. In Serbia, unfortunately, there are no incentives, and the problem is also that energy cooperatives are invisible to financial institutions.”
Cooperatives should be treated as public benefit projects
Energy cooperatives should be treated as public benefit projects, because they put proactive local communities at the forefront. The legislation should allow the local administration to easily accept projects implemented by cooperatives. Cooperatives also must not be treated as competition to power utilities, but as an additional option.
He said that citizens of Šabac have received significant help in setting up the cooperative from friends from the UNDP Belgrade office, and ZEZ from Croatia. Without their support, the first Serbian energy cooperative would not have been established.
The investment is estimated at EUR 15,000
The first project being developed by the cooperative is the construction of a PV plant on the roof of the Toplane-Šabac administrative building. A crowdfunding campaign will be launched to raise funds to install the PV plant. The investment in the 16.5 kW plant is estimated at EUR 15,000.
The inauguration of the plant is planned by the end of 2019 or during January 2020
Financial details will be announced by the end of November, and the implementation of the project will start immediately after the end of the media campaign. The inauguration of the plant is planned by the end of 2019 or during January 2020, Jerotić said.