John and I started the day with an early morning walk around Ljubljana‘s central downtown district. As shops began to open, more and more people were riding by on bikes, heading in to start the week. We perched ourselves at an outdoor café for a cup of coffee and a croissant.
Exchanging knowledge, progress reports
Our first appointment today was at 9:00 am at the Jozef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana. There we met with Stane Merse, central head of the institute, and Ales Podgornil, project manager, to discuss their work in the creation of a national Action Plan for Renewable Energy, which aims to achieve 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. Right now, Slovenia gets about 15 percent of its energy from renewable resources, most of it from hydro plants.
By comparison, about 20 percent of Iowa’s energy comes from renewable sources, most of it from wind. Although this may seem more impressive than the Slovenian portfolio, unlike our European counterpart, we have no stated goal for improvement.
Because it lacks the wind capacity of Iowa, Slovenia hasn’t developed any real wind energy farms. The country has also seen significant public opposition from bird protection organizations and those concerned about the visual impact wind mills would have on its scenic beauty.
One of the main components of Slovenia’s plan is to make buildings more energy efficient, with the belief that they can achieve a 30 to 50 percent reduction in building heating costs though such changes.
Slovenia has also set a new fee on consumer utility bills that raises money to help homeowners and business owners invest in energy saving improvements.
In the area of solar energy, Slovenia has about 10 megawatts of solar power – a very small amount. But the market for solar photovoltaic systems is increasing as the cost of installation goes down. In an effort to stimulate solar growth, Slovenia has set aside 70 million euros for a feed-in tariff to help consumers pay for investments they are making in these systems. And by 2020, the country aims to reach 300 megawatts of solar power.
Slovenia is also planning another large nuclear power plant for 2025.
At the Institute, we also learned about some of the impacts of climate change in Slovenia. Like we’ve seen in Iowa, Slovenians have been experiencing violent weather. They’ve seen significant flooding and even a tornado and instances of 100 plus mile winds – phenomena never seen there before. And another first time instance: the bark beetle is attacking pine forests in Slovenia.
Lunch at the market!
After scavenging on a lunch of fresh strawberries, raspberries, cherries, carrots, bread and swiss cheese at the outdoor market, we headed over to our scheduled appointment at the Okoljski Center. There we met with Andrea Palatinus from Eco Vitae, one of several strong environmental protection non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Slovenia.
Founded in 2003 by a group of young ecologists, the group is housed with five other important environmental groups that work on key environmental issues.
We spent about two hours visiting with staff and checking out their offices inside a 150 year old house in the central part of downtown. We then met with representatives from CIPRA, Focus, Institute for Sustainable Development, Solenski E-Forum and Umanotero.
Today’s weather was sunny and mid 80’s – another perfect day!
We leave for Bled tomorrow after meetings with the Office of Climate Change and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we expect to bike about 70 kilometers through some more beautiful countryside.
You can hear even more news from the tour on David Osterberg’s blog for the Des Moines Register.