05 Jul 2024, 15:25
Katarina Gulan

Dispatch from Croatia | July 2024

Photo shows aereal view of Brac Island coast, Croatia.
Photo: European Union.

Following Croatia’s inconclusive elections in April, the country’s parliament finally approved the new coalition government on 16 May. The centre-right HDZ, which won the most seats, formed a coalition with the right-wing Homeland Movement (Domovinski pokret). In its program for the next four years, the government highlights plans to invest in renewable energy sources, including the installation of an additional 2,500 MW capacity with the aim of fully decarbonising the power supply. It will also focus on decarbonizing the transport sector by developing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging and procuring new electric trains. The liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal capacity on the island of Krk will be expanded from 2.9 billion to 6.1 billion cubic metres per year, and the capacity of the gas transport system to Slovenia and Hungary will also be increased. Croatia is still waiting for a decision on the unit fee for grid connection, which is crucial for initiating more than a billion euros worth of renewable energy projects currently on hold.

***Our weekly Dispatches provide an overview of the most relevant recent and upcoming developments for the shift to climate neutrality in selected European countries, from policy and diplomacy to society and industry.

For a bird's-eye view of the country's climate-friendly transition, read the respective 'Guide to'.***

Stories to watch in the weeks ahead

  • A new Ministry of Environmental Protection and Green Transition – previously integrated into the Ministry of Economy – has been established in the coalition allocation of ministries between HDZ and the Homeland Movement. The ministry, led by former Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković (HDZ), is expected to play a key role in implementing the green transition and sustainable development. Other key portfolios, such as energy and economic policy, will be led by the Homeland Movement. The party's programme is generally in favour of the green transition, but it also says that Croatia "does not influence global trends" of climate change, and advocates for oil and gas exploitation. Energy sector stakeholders such as the interest group Renewable Energy Sources of Croatia (OIEH) agree that the key issue is not who is in which ministry, but how effectively the ministries collaborate and whether they are equipped to address the challenges. The stakeholders emphasize the need to resolve current administrative delays and improve the efficiency of renewable energy project approvals.
  • The Croatian Energy Regulatory Agency (HERA) will finally set the fee to connect renewables installations to the grid by the end of the month, said Ivo Milatić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy. The delay has caused 1,300 MW of projects to be put on hold. The renewables industry lobby group OIEH has urged the Croatian parliament to immediately set a unit fee for grid connection, a decision overdue by 19 months. Despite significant potential, Croatia risks penalties for not meeting its goal of 42.5 percent renewable energy consumption by 2030.
  • Like most other EU member states, Croatia missed the end of June deadline to submit the final updated National Energy and Climate Plan to the EU. The first version was deemed "unambitious" by the EU and Croatia has yet to finalise its revised submission. The Ministry of Economy said work was in the "final stage," but did not specify when it would be completed.
  • A spike in demand for electricity during the summer tourism season causes supply issues, highlighting the need for significant investments in the grid. In the Istria region, the new spatial plan aims to create an "Istrian energy hub," connecting 400 megawatts of solar power and a 150-megawatt battery station. The county commissioner, Tulio Demtlika said he hopes to have the batteries operational in ten years.

The latest from Croatia – last month in recap

  • Less than two months after the Croatian parliamentary elections, voting for the European Parliament also took place. Voter turnout was the lowest in the EU at 21.3 percent. Ultimately, Croatians elected 12 representatives to the European Parliament. The ruling centre-right party HDZ won half of the 12 seats. The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its partners won four seats. The right-wing populist party Homeland Movement (Domovinski pokret) won one seat, and the only green-left party Možemo! also won a single  seat. In both the national and European Parliament campaigns, debates on climate and energy issues were almost completely absent. Only Možemo! emphasized green topics in its campaign - focusing primarily on measures like renewables expansion and energy efficiency, and the green reindustrialisation.
  • In mid-June, there was a power outage lasting several hours which hit Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and large areas of the Croatian coast. The energy ministers of Montenegro and Albania blamed the outage on an overloaded system due to extremely high temperatures. This event sparked discussions about the state of the energy sector in Croatia. Možemo! announced it would question the government in parliament regarding the its handling of this sector. They demanded an urgent change in Croatia's energy policy, investments in the power infrastructure, and support for citizen-led energy initiatives.
  • The Croatian Energy Market Operator (HROTE) has announced a public tender for awarding market premiums to encourage electricity production from renewable sources, including solar, wind, and hydroelectric plants, with planned support funds amounting to 257.2 million euros.
  • In mid-June, activists from the NGO Green Action (Zelena akcija) protested outside the new environment and green transition ministry, calling for a public debate on the national energy and climate plan. They claim that the previous government used the term "sustainable development" to greenwash decisions and projects that still rely heavily on fossil fuels. Green Action criticises decisions like the expansion of the Krk LNG terminal, the construction of the Kosinj hydropower plant, and the closure of coal power plant Plomin 2 only by 2033 as misguided strategies.
  • By 2030, Croatia will have about 10.5 gigawatts of total electricity production capacity, with 8 gigawatts being renewable, announced Ivo Milatić, state secretary at the economy ministry, at the Renewable Energy Days conference. The government is increasing expansion targets that include adding 2 gigawatts of wind energy, 319 megawatts of geothermal energy, and 4 gigawatts of solar energy to the grid by 2030, while biogas and biomass capacities remain as initially planned in the current National Energy and Climate Plan. The state is considering the possibility of installing agrisolar systems on agricultural land with permanent crops, announced state secretary at the agriculture ministry Tugomir Majdak.
  • The Hydrocarbon Agency and the company Crosco signed a nearly 40-million-euro contract to begin the search for geothermal water in Velika Gorica, Zaprešić, Osijek, and Vinkovci. The Director of the Energy Institute "Hrvoje Požar" emphasized Croatia's significant geothermal potential in the continental region and highlighted that over 300 MW of geothermal power capacity is planned by 2030, representing about 15 percent of total consumption.

Katarina’s picks – highlights from upcoming events and top reads

  • DOOR (Society for Sustainable Development Design) plans to develop an interactive online module in Croatia for primary school teachers to help introduce the topic of climate change to students. This free tool will be available on DOOR's website.
  • DOOR is also running the EUWES project to empower underrepresented women in the energy sector. They aim to collect women's experiences through a survey to address barriers to advancement, the gender pay gap, and other challenges.
  • Members of the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment, climate scientists, researchers, and practitioners called on the permanent representatives of the member states of the Council of Europe, to adopt an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights to recognize the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
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