What are energy communities? Are there energy communities in Croatia? Why establish an energy community at all? What after the establishment?

Energy communities are non-profit organizations that enable citizens, micro and small businesses, and local government units to join together with the common goal of using energy activities such as energy production, consumption, storage, aggregation, etc. Their main goal is to connect citizens through energy activities and the conservation of the environment while providing social and economic benefits to its members. Making a financial profit is possible and allowed, but these funds are invested in the further development and maintenance of the energy community.

In Croatia, the energy community is a legal entity registered in the register of associations. Therefore, the energy community in Croatia can currently operate only in the form of an association. Energy communities enable the association of consumers as well as producers of electricity from renewable energy sources. They enable maximum utilization of electricity, and energy sharing among its members and ultimately reduce the amounts on electricity bills. They also enable the association of consumers who do not have their own power plant but want to be part of the community and consume electricity from renewable energy sources.

Currently, there are several initiatives for the establishment of energy communities in Croatia, and as of March 5, 2024, the first energy community “My Energy Community – MEC” was officially established in Croatia. It is located in the municipality of Rugvica, in Zagreb County. The number of participants in the community is 4 family houses in one street with a total power of the solar power plant of 3.6 kW. It is expected that the annual production of electricity will amount to about 4,000 kWh. Currently, work is underway to establish a second energy community in Ivanić-Grad as part of the LOGYCO project led by the Society for the Design of Sustainable Development (DOOR).

Why even establish an energy community or join it as a member? Primarily because members have more affordable electricity prices because they can buy or get energy from other members within the community at a lower price than from a traditional supplier. In addition, they produce and consume electricity locally, do not depend exclusively on the power grid, and reduce costs, losses, and greenhouse gas emissions.

However, there are still numerous limitations and obstacles in Croatia for energy communities to operate at their full potential. First of all, the very establishment of an energy community requires obtaining a permit for the performance of energy activities issued by the Croatian Energy Regulatory Agency (HERA). In addition to the ZDOED form, 18 documents must be submitted and €995.42 must be paid for applying. In addition, the law mandates that the energy community should have one person employed full-time, which is a huge obstacle to the establishment of a smaller community with several households at the start. In many countries of the European Union, energy communities are encouraged in various ways. Austria can be used as an example, where energy communities have a discount on the network fee of 40 to 70%.

Through further communication with the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development and proposing concrete solutions, it is expected that the major obstacles will be removed over the next one or two years.

As part of the LOGYCO project, a guide for the establishment of citizen energy communities (CEC) was developed and published. The guide lists the necessary documentation and main steps for establishing an CEC in the Republic of Croatia. The administrative process of application and establishment of CEC and the process of installing a solar power plant for CEC are described.

Download the guide at this link: VODIČ za osnivanje energetske zajednice građana

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