Interview with City of Velika Gorica: Big Plans for a Renewable and Efficient Local Energy System
Velika Gorica is a small Croatian city with 60,000 inhabitants in the region of Turopolje and it has ambitious climate plans. With a district heating network already in place and multiple renewable energy sources surrounding the city, it has all the potentials for a renewable and efficient local energy system. PLANHEAT partner Euroheat & Power/ DHC+ Technology Platform had the opportunity to speak with a representative of the city of Velika Gorica and find out more and what role the PLANHEAT project will play to tap the untapped potential:
Mr. Ruzic, the City of Velika Gorica already has an old district heating network in place. Can you tell a bit more about the current situation and the plans for upgrading and retrofitting?
The district heating system in Velika Gorica was built during the 1970s, and some boilers in local boiler plants are of the same age. The operator of district heating is the public company HEP Toplinarstvo Ltd. owned by the state. In the past, the City of Velika Gorica has had many problems in communication with this company. However, now we are improving from every heating season to the next one. Currently HEP Toplinarstvo is refurbishing a large number of heat pipes, exchanging them with modern, pre-insulated pipes, so that the energy losses should be as low as possible in the future. The city itself, through its public company Gradsko stambeno gospodarstvo Velika Gorica Ltd. (a company for residential buildings management) is striving to refurbish all residential buildings – with priority of those connected to the district heating network. We are very successful in this, so out of 128 residential buildings under the management of GSG VG Ltd., 16 have already been refurbished by insulation of outer walls, installation of new windows and doors with low-E characteristics and refurbishment of heat exchange equipment connected to district heating network.
What is Velika Gorica’s future strategy concerning this heating and cooling system?
Unfortunately, Velika Gorica has no district cooling system in place though demand is there. However, there is great potential with a relatively large artificial lake in the close vicinity of the residential area. That’s why we plan to include the possibility of municipal heating and cooling using the lake as a heat source/sink in the future. We are also situated on top of a large groundwater basin which is used as a water supply for the city and for the nearby Croatian capital, the City of Zagreb, so there is also a possibility to use this resource in the future, for low temperature heating and cooling. The surrounding area is also rich in forest lands that could be used for production of biomass to be used in different technologies of furnaces for district, local and individual heat production. Velika Gorica also has a lot of insolation during the year, and HEP Toplinarstvo is already considering using the solar heat for district heating networks. During the PLANHEAT scenarios development for our city, we shall definitely use all those available renewable resources for planning the future development of district heating and cooling for the city.
What are the reasons why Velika Gorica has decided to become a PLANHEAT project partner and be a validation city?
The City of Velika Gorica unfortunately lacks organisational and human capacities for tackling the problem of its district heating and cooling system future development. This was the main reason we have decided to involve our Office for Environmental Protection in the PLANHEAT project. Our whish was to learn from experts, gain experience through cooperation with partners that already have the knowledge needed to boost the pace at which infrastructural, technological and organisational changes in approach to the problem of district heating and cooling are implemented in our city. As far as we are aware, we have been successful in this approach until this moment, and I believe that until the end of the project even more results are about to come.
The PLANHEAT project started in October 2017, nine months ago; in this period of time, have you already experienced any benefit from joining this European project?
As I have already mentioned in my previous answer, we feel successful in reaching the goals we have set ourselves before joining the PLANHEAT consortium. We have connected to a number of experts in the field of district heating and cooling, gained new knowledge and experience, gained some insight into other European cities’ experiences, and learned how to make our city more energy efficient and comfortable for its citizens in the future by using renewable energy resources, lowering the heating and cooling demand by energy reconstruction of old apartment houses and individual homes, reconstructing our old district heating network. We now also have an idea how to better organise this work inside our local administration, probably by founding a new public body that will be working in this field. The experience of visiting other cities that have other problems and solutions other than our own has, has also been really enriching.
How do you evaluate the potential of Velika Gorica to inspire other cities and municipalities in the region, in Croatia and beyond?
The City of Velika Gorica, being the sixth largest city in Croatia, has indeed the potential and visibility needed to inspire other local communities to involve themselves in similar activities. As the Republic of Croatia has obliged itself to reach the European goals of energy efficiency, renewable energy usage and lowering the greenhouse gas emissions by accession to the European Union, we believe other Croatian cities and municipalities will find this experience of Velika Gorica interesting, and we will be able to present to them our activities and also the results of successful implementation of PLANHEAT project, so they could follow in our steps to energy efficient and renewable future of energy usage. Croatian neighboring countries also apt to access the EU, so in this process they will also be able to use the experience of our city in reaching the energy goals in the field of district heating and cooling.
More information on Velika Gorica