Pokupsko is a municipality in north-western Croatia near the Kupa River. Surrounded by forests and hills, its 2.500 residents are accustomed to living in harmony with nature, a facet of life supported by the municipality’s aims for sustainable development. This has been achieved by investing in projects and maximising the utilisation of financial incentives from both national and EU funds. In the last 10 years, a number of projects related to energy efficiency and renewable energy have been implemented, having visible impacts on the residents’ quality of life.
As 70% of Pokupsko is covered by forested areas, one such project was the establishment of a biomass district heating plant to provide heat to public and commercial buildings, as well as households located in the centre. While there are plans to connect other parts of the municipality to the district heating facility, already 30 consumers benefit, meaning that over 75% of the energy needs in Pokupsko are satisfied through local resources, with the plan to reach 100% in the next five years.
The construction of the communal biomass heating plant has increased the quality of life of the residents; instead of having to chop wood into logs and light old wood furnaces manually, heat is now readily available by simply pressing a button. Not only is the price of this heat cheaper than fossil fuel, the regulation system also enables each customer to define the desired comfort level and monitor the heat consumed. One of the main beneficiaries of the new biomass heating plant is an elementary school in Pokupsko – which, unsurprisingly, is very involved with environmental protection and eco-topics. Through a wide range of activities, its students are instilled with respect for nature preservation and environmental protection. The biomass heating plant in Pokupsko also provides a strong positive social component, as part of the revenues from the heating is used as a scholarship for local children.
The main challenge faced by the project was securing the necessary subsidies in order to finance the construction of the biomass district heating plant. This was achieved by applying to the IPARD (Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance in Rural Development) as well as through the Fund for Environment Protection and Energy Efficiency in Croatia–the first of such financing schemes in Croatia. The investment received as about 1,2 million EUR. Finally in 2015, after more than six years of preparation, the first and only communal biomass heating plant in Croatia was constructed. The Municipality of Pokupsko has been the key driving force of this project by recognising the benefits and actively participating in the project’s implementation, educational and promotional activities, and providing feedback, leaving them with more interest to pursue future projects.