Green capital of Europe striving for clean energy
Interview with Doris Kukovičič.
Ljubljana, the Green Capital of Europe 2016, is this month promoting energy efficiency. By striving for environmentally friendly energy sources in the past decades, the capital has managed to significantly improve air quality in the city, but it will not stop there, said Doris Kukovičič of Energetika Ljubljana.
Energetika Ljubljana, the public power utility in the city, oversees the whole series of events dealing with energy efficiency in June and Kukovičič is the head of the Green Capital project at the power utility. "Many years ago, Ljubljana was one of the most SO2-polluted cities in the world. Today the level of the toxic gas is at least 30-times lower than 30 years ago," Kukovičič said in an interview with the STA. This has been achieved mostly through the introduction of district heating and gas supply, so now the air quality in the city deteriorates only in winter due to individual outdated heating units and biomass that is not properly dried. Energetika Ljubljana has over 100,000 users today, while the total length of all hot water and gas pipes is 1,600 kilometres, which is the distance between Ljubljana and London, Kukovičič illustrated. "Our strategic goal is to raise the share of flats using district heating from 74% to 80% by 2020."
This means that the networks for heating and gas would need to be expanded, but the biggest investment will be in the new gas-steam unit. "Currently, we are using a coal-based technology and coal from Indonesia. In the last six years, we have introduced wood biomass and from the initial 50,000 tonnes a year we have come to more than 100,000 tonnes a year. This means that 15% of all our energy comes from wood biomass." The use of wood biomass in an effort to improve air quality is more efficient in district heating than in individual heating units, she explained, adding that the technological maximum for biomass had already been reached.
"That is why our other priority is to gradually replace coal with gas. The project of the gas-steam unit should be concluded by 2020. Then we would have three energy sources, which would improve air quality and energy efficiency."
While admitting that now may not be the best time for such big energy investments, Kukovičič said that the EUR 117.5m project would be implemented step by step. What is more, Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek has recently said Russian investors are interested in the project, but Kukovičič would not comment on this.
Many years ago, Ljubljana was one of the most SO2-polluted cities in the world. Today the level of the toxic gas is at least 30-times lower than 30 years ago."
The other important field where Ljubljana is trying to be more environmentally friendly is traffic. "Today, 34% of vehicles of the Ljubljana city administration and public companies are environmentally friendly, more than half of which are vehicles using compressed natural gas or methane." Ljubljana's public transport company, LPP, has 66 buses that use methane, Kukovičič noted. Energetika Ljubljana has also been increasingly building charging stations for electric vehicles. The vision for Ljubljana is for cars to represent only one-third of all traffic, with the other two thirds being public transport, and bicyclists and pedestrians. Kukovičič highlighted the Bicikelj system of bicycle rental in the city, which has been embraced by locals as well as visitors. People have become more aware of the importance of energy efficiency. "The Green Capital title has certainly significantly contributed to that," she said.
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