Apsyrtides, a new energy cooperative is created on Cres&Lošinj archipelago (Croatia).
Rural topic(s): Renewable energy and eco-housing
Type: Innovative experience
Date of writing: July 26, 2021
Apyrtides is a new energy cooperative created to self-manage the energy on Cres&Lošinj archipelago in Croatia. Among the members, the cooperative has private people and companies as well as 2 municipalities. It aims at managing a small photovoltaic farm thanks to a crowfunding campaign, installing PV panels on public roofs and raising awareness among inhabitants. Franjo Toic explains the process of creation and the challenges they are facing.
Cres&Lošinj archipelago is located on the northern part of the Adriatic Sea. It has 2 major islands (Cres and Lošinj) and a few other smaller islands and islets. Cres is the biggest island in Croatia, with a population of around 3.000 people whereas the whole archipelago has around 11.000 inhabitants. Compared to some other islands in Europe, the area has a low-density population, and the archipelago is relatively easy to reach thanks to the ferry boat connections during the whole year.
Energy cooperatives are not a new idea in terms of the EU. In Spain and in France, such cooperatives have worked very well in the past 15 years but in Croatia, it is quite a new idea. When Croatia became a member of the EU in 2013, in the same year the first energy cooperative was founded: “ZEZ – Zelena energetska zadruga” (Green energy cooperative) was created with the support of the UNDP program for developing energy cooperatives. In the past years, energy cooperative activities in Croatia were quite low, mostly because the national level of decision making was quite close to the government owned energy company and cooperatives had many bureaucratic obstacles to fulfill. Today, Croatia has less than a dozen of energy cooperatives but hopefully due to the recent law corrections, it will be much easier to provide society owned energy actors (cooperative, association or similar).
The cooperative creation process
Where in this story is Cres&Lošinj?
Well, both municipalities (Town of Cres, and Town of Mali Lošinj) recognized in the past the role of clean energy in the upcoming era, and since we are a well-known tourism destination with clean nature and services, it was logical to move forward to energy transition. In 2019, thanks to the support of the “Clean energy for EU secretary”, the agenda for energy transition was developed and one activity in the agenda was the idea of an island energy cooperative. After many talks and meetings with many island stakeholders and a family that already had a location for possible installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels, the general assembly was held on 30th April 2021. The assembly was very interesting and specific because among the 29 members that responded to the invitation, there were representatives from academia, municipalities, companies and of course private people. At the moment, it is the first energy cooperative in Croatia that has 2 municipalities in active cooperative membership. The energy cooperative has been called “Apsyrtides” which is the name of our archipelago from the Greek period. Even though currently there are 2 municipalities on the archipelago, with this initiative we try to act as one body and bond our inhabitants for a greener future.
During the process of establishing the cooperative we had mostly formal bureaucratic issues and issues regarding COVID19 and how to organize the assembly. It was also a bit difficult to explain the idea to the possible members since cooperatives as a formal organization in Croatia are not really popular due to the previous system (socialism / communism). As mentioned in one Spanish webinar regarding energy cooperatives, we could also claim that 29 of the first members of “Apsyrtides energy cooperative” are “modern hippies”. After bureaucratic issues and formal paperwork, in the beginning of July 2021 we got formally established and are currently active.
Challenges and plans for the future
Our plans for the future (up to the end of 2022) are: developing a PV panel farm located on the northern part of Cres island, converting public building roofs to PV panels, education of the inhabitants toward a greener life and benefits for reusable energy resources, and all of that with crowd investment scheme. Let’s also mention that, since the whole archipelago is under NATURA 2000 protection, the installation of wind turbines is not possible; only photovoltaic panels can be installed. Currently there are 5 locations on the archipelago to develop a PV farm: 4 of them (from 1 up to 10 MW) are already reserved for HEP, the government energy company and the last one is ours (0.5MW). Compared to the others, ours is a small one, but it is big enough to test the process of development and crowdfunding in Croatian conditions, to have more experience in the future and to disseminate the “know-how”.
Currently what we see as the biggest issues to tackle in the future is the legal model of how to make a crowd investment for our specific purpose since there is no similar example in Croatia. We are negotiating different options with Croatian and foreign cooperatives to see what the best solution would be.
In conclusion, we really hope that the future for our archipelago community will be bright and green, and that we could be a positive change in the way of thinking of our inhabitants. We often say, “if we test it and it works on an island, it can work anywhere in the world”!
Link to the Energy transition:
Scale of intervention : Local
Keywords: photovoltaic energy, renewable energy, island
Actors: cooperative, self-governing social enterprise (cooperative)