Where is SCCALE 20 30 50 Croatian pilot Parentium at? We spoke with Sabina Baranašić – Project Manager at the City of Poreč Parenzo. She underlined the importance of legal clarity and multi-level dialogues at national level to ensure cities and citizens have the opportunity to pilot new financing schemes for renewables, energy sharing and renovation projects.
Parentium is developing a voucher model ought to enable citizens to participate in community investments in renewable energy on public buildings. When investing in the project, people receive a voucher that allows them to have a reduction of 5 to 25% on the price of specific public services they regularly use. The money invested by citizens will be used by the city for RES installation or energy efficiency measures on public buildings. Thanks to these interventions, the municipality will also be able to reduce the price of public services in Poreč.
Up to now what has been the most challenging part of your project? How have you dealt with it?
Since we are developing a new financial scheme, we need high-end expert financial and legal feedback from the Ministry of Finance. The biggest challenges were establishing the necessary communication channels with the public institutions with the needed expertise and having the green light for the implementation of the pilot at city level. In addition, we have been looking into establishing a consistent and proactive interaction with the Croatian Ministry of Finance: this lack of reactivity slowed the project development down, but we did not let it stop us! Green Energy Cooperative (ZEZ) and the Town of Poreč-Parenzo used internal skills, experience, and creativity to explore different options for the pilot project to create a meaningful impact. We also decided not to stand still while waiting: we advance in other areas instead, such as community engagement (with our inhabitants but also with other cities who showed interest), discussed with external financial experts about how to make the voucher model easier to implement.
What has been the most important moment for your pilot so far?
I believe we had 3 very important moments for the life of our pilot. The first moment was when the Ministry of Finance agreed to meet with ZEZ and our municipality to discover the voucher model: they were prepared and provided us with feedback on how the model could be implemented in practice. They promised to enforce in writing meeting conclusions.
The second moment was when we held two workshops for kindergarten parents, who are the potential community members who would like to invest in the city’s voucher scheme. They have shown great interest in participating in a pilot project and said that there should be more initiatives as voucher models on the country level.
The third moment was when other Croatian cities started to show interest in the voucher model as a great tool to connect with its citizens and provide them with better and more affordable services.
How close are you to reach your project’s goals?
After working on our model, meeting with the authorities and thanks to the positive feedback received by both the ministry and the local community, we can say we are halfway to achieving our goals!
How are you contributing to the development of new projects/energy communities?
ZEZ has been doing community engagement workshops, to foster the development of new community energy projects in the municipalities of Križevci, Cres, and Prelog. They have shown interest in replicating our model. Both our municipality and ZEZ run educational workshops for citizens / local governments / solar panel installers. We promote renewable energy via brochures, guidebooks, social media, etc. For example, as the result of a regional workshop organized by the Town of Poreč-Parenzo, we published the position paper ”What can Cities and Municipalities do to encourage and accelerate the development of renewable energy projects in their area?” and delivered it to all local authority representatives within the Region of Istria.
What is the next step for your project?
The next step would be to find a legal basis for the implementation of our model. It could prove challenging as it requires feedback from the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration. Meanwhile, we’ll need to preserve institutional and citizen commitment by improving communication with the authorities and maintaining citizens’ motivation. The Town of Poreč-Parenzo is also planning to launch a public call for expression of interest that later would be followed by a public call for individual prosumers to install solar PV on private rooftops as a preparatory step toward future energy communities!
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