Story by Sandra Vlašić, June 13th 2018

Exactly sixty years ago, back in 1958 all eyes were up on the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Elizabeth Taylor in a splendid drama peace by Tennessee Williams. Back then, our story was a fiction. Now, all eyes are up on Križevci Solar Roofs and we have a true story that is a hit!

Our story is about a solar power plant of 30 kW on the roof of Development Centre and Technology Park in Križevci, lovely small city 60 kilometres away from Zagreb, Croatian capital. The city is small, but it is the first city in Croatia that has a solar power plant entirely financed by the citizens as small investors. How?

ZEZ started it but is not alone

The initiative came from the Green Energy Cooperative or ZEZ who developed the project together with partners from the city of Križevci, Regional Energy Agency North, Greenpeace Croatia, Solvis and ACT Group. ZEZ was working on technical and economic elements of the project for almost a year, then we prepared and launched a crowd-lending campaign to raise necessary amount of 230.000 kuna (30.000 euro) to build the solar plant. And – boom: in just ten days, it was fully funded!

This was the first crowd-lending project in Croatia for the first citizen energy project. The amount was collected in ten days by 53 small investors, based on micro-loans model. ZEZ will return the loans to investors with 4.5% of interest over a period of 10 years, from the income generated by electricity production of the solar power plant on the roof. The minimum investment chip was 1000 kuna (130 euro), the maximum was 10.000 kuna (1300 euro) and the average in this project was 4000 kuna (500 euro).

The interest is high, energy transition is on the way

The interest expressed during the campaign goes up to almost double the amount that was needed, while today, a month after the campaign, it is up to 1 million kuna and more then hundred people willing to invest into renewable energy sources. This shows that people are willing and interested to invest into good projects with high impact. In this case, there is positive impact on climate change and environment, on local community and economy – all the equipment comes from a Croatian company and the jobs are local. Green electricity will power the needs of Development and Technology Centre tenants and demonstrates a great positive example for the others. There is already interest within Križevci to power more roofs and there is interest from other cities like Pazin, Pleternica or Velika Gorica for similar renewable installations that would be powered by citizens.

This is the beginning of a true energy transition in Croatia, just like the vision ZEZ had back in 2013 when it was established as one of the first energy cooperatives in Croatia. Today, ZEZ is a leading energy cooperative in Croatia and the region, is a member of management board of the European Federation for renewable energy cooperatives (REScoop.eu) and the right hand of the Energy Cities (the European Association of local authorities) in Croatia.

What we were waiting for?

The solar power plant in Križevci is the first project based on the microloans model and anyone, you and I, could be a part of it thus taking energy in our hands. So far, we haven`t had this opportunity in Croatia while the Sun is on our side of the street – studies show that by the middle of this century half of citizens of Croatia could produce their own (our own!) energy. In Europe and the world this is a usual way of developing the energy market and the local community. The technical solution is available, business models are known, what we were waiting for?

In Germany 50% of renewable energy installations are owned by the citizens in Denmark it is more, three quarters of wind energy is in the citizens’ hands. Some of them are gathered in an energy cooperative, some are not, it is not necessary, but it is useful because the cooperative has greater strength in every way. Now we have the first renewable energy installation in Croatia owned by the citizens, with a little help of ZEZ. This is only the beginning because when ZEZ says “energy in the hands of citizens”, we mean it.  With this project in Križevci we have shown you how.

“The dark days are gone, and the bright days are here, My Sunny one shines so sincere…”

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