Solar energy tour: from neighborhood to neighbourhood

Interview with Svibor Jančić, community development expert



Kristina Laus, Communication Officer at ZEZ

Publication date

January 4, 2024

More than 80% of Croatians are yet to embrace renewable energy and a staggering  90% are unfamiliar with the process of obtaining permits for electricity self-production. The Green Energy Cooperative (ZEZ) wantsto bridge this knowledge gap: last November, the ZEZ team went on a mission to inform residents in Zagreb about the possibilities of citizen-led solar energy. They hosted a series of free lectures titled: “How to get your own solar PV plant” during a tour through 10 neighborhoods of the Croatian capital. Svibor Jančić, ZEZ’s community development expert, was one of them. During the tour he passionately shared insights and valuable information, encouraging citizens to invest in solar and usher in a new era of sustainable energy. We met him for a talk about citizen solar energy in his country.

Svibor, you visited 10 neighborhoods in Zagreb in just one month. Can you share the motivation behind this extensive outreach?

Absolutely. ZEZ has been on a mission to educate citizens across Croatia about installing solar PV plants for years. The goal is to make as many citizens as possible to become aware of the cost-effectiveness and value of solar investments. This tour aimed not only to inform citizens but also to underscore the pivotal role that solar plays in the broader energy transition towards an energy-independent society. 

Could you elaborate on the collaboration with the City of Zagreb and the significance of the LIFE LOOP (Local ownership of power) project?

Our partnership with the City of Zagreb, supported  by the European funded project LIFE LOOP, reflects our commitment to engage citizens in their local environment. By organizing lectures on the premises of local boards – essentially  local self-governance entities – we aimed to bring the discussion closer to citizens and local government representatives. In this context, “LIFE LOOP” encapsulates our strategy to foster local ownership and participation in the energy transition.  

What benefits does solar energy bring to the citizens and Zagreb as a whole?

Until recently, Croatia significantly lagged behind in the adoption of solar energy in comparison to its neighboring countries. Numerous reasons can be given, from procedural and administrative burdens, to prices.  However, thanks to legislative changes coming into force at the beginning of 2024.  solar is becoming recognized as a good investment opportunity.

 The new regulatory framework ensures greater security and savings for citizens investing in small solar PV plants, with potential savings now reaching  up to 100%. Beyond financial gains, citizens are recognising the broader benefits,  from using  solar energy for heat pumps to powering electric vehicles, 

The installation of small solar PV plants not only benefits individual households but also benefits the broader society.  Following the example of other countries in Europe, solar energy can be the foundation for creating energy communities, reducing carbon emissions and creating added value for the entire local community.

How are your lectures designed?

The lectures cover three basic thematic areas that help citizens make an informed decision on investing in a small solar PV plant: T the technical conditions for installation, the components of a solar PV plant, and the administrative procedures involved.

What further distinguishes our lectures is the introduction of  citizens to the concept of energy communities,  encouraging them not only to invest in their own solar PV plant but also in community solar PV plants in cooperation with fellow citizens.

What did the presidents of Local Boards say about the lectures in their neighborhoods?

Local board presidents, such as Ivana Molan (Šestinski dol – Vrhovec), Marko Vranić (Lučko), Robert Šafranko (Podsused), and Goran Jukić (Holy Spirit), expressed strong support for our efforts. They recognize the value these lectures bring to citizens, with attendees often sharing their positive experiences. There is a shared belief that energy communities can be a transformative solution, although ongoing education and emphasizing the savings potential are crucial to overcoming initial scepticism.

What interests and concerns do citizens express regarding solar energy adoption?

Citizens are most interested in costs, expected savings, and opportunities to generate additional income through solar energy. They are mainly interested in setting up solar PV plants on facilities near the  coast where they expect faster profitability of the investment, as well as energy sharing initiatives in the continental part of Croatia. Concerns primarily revolve around the administration aspects, with  the entire process taking 6 to 9 months. Patience becomes a key factor in navigating the solar energy journey.

What about other Croatian cities? Is the solar revolution extending beyond Zagreb?

Absolutely. In addition to our extensive outreach in 10 Zagreb neighborhoods, we conducted lectures in 23 cities across major regions of Croatia. We delivered a total of 36 lectures for citizens and 13 educational sessions for employees of city administrations. Our focus extends beyond merely delivering lectures; we actively encourage cities to take a leading role in the local energy transition. We encourage them to co-finance small solar PV plants for their citizens. Our ambitious goal is for every city to establish at least one energy community,actively supported and developed  in cooperation with its citizens. While challenging,  we believe this path leads us toward a more sustainable, democratic and solar-powered future for Croatia.

Thank you for this conversation.