Our Tuesday was dominated by meetings and some more riding.
We began the day packing for our exit from Ljubljana. After breakfast at the youth hostel’s outdoor café we pedaled to the Slovenian Office of Climate Change. There we met with the office director Jernej Stritih.
Interestingly, Stritih told us he had visited Iowa in the early 1990’s. There, he met with Stanely Consultants of Muscatine to discuss an infrastructure project that he was involved with in Slovenia. This was back when he worked in the private sector.
The Office of Climate Change was just recently established; its birth was a response to a strong push by environmental groups during last year’s elections and in the run up to Copenhagen. As a result, Slovenia has since implemented a slew of activities to address climate change, including the construction of a new energy policy.
The main focus of Mr. Stritih’s work is to develop a national low carbon strategy for 2050 – an 80 percent reduction in emissions from 1990 levels.
At the meeting, we heard again about how Slovenia’s transportation sector is a growing source of emissions as more of its people buy cars and drive more. And several newly constructed major highways across the country have contributed to this increase. Mr. Stritih said Slovenia needs to invest more in trains and other forms of public transit.
We also discussed Slovenia’s work to encourage the use of solar energy. Last year, there were 200 solar-related projects approved in the country. Leading the push, is Bisol Company, a fast-growing solar panel manufacturer.
There are also efforts underway by private sector companies to rent the roof tops of schools for solar energy production.
The price of solar panels has been dropping here by a whopping 9 percent each year. And in an estimated five years, solar is expected to be competitive with other sources of energy.
Assisting the development of solar is a feed-in tariff; a state subsidy to people and companies that install solar projects.
Another low carbon strategy discussed in Slovenia is the greater use of wood products in construction and wood wastes to power and heat communities. About 60 percent of the Slovenian landscape is wooded, and with this abundance of the material, Slovenians believe they can sustainably reduce their carbon emissions by creating small thermal cogeneration systems for small communities. Their forests currently provide a carbon sink of about 5 mega tons per year, equal to about 15 million euro credits.
Overall, Mr. Stritih was optimistic about his work and Slovenia’s prospects for progress.
Our next meeting of the day was with Matej Andolsek, deputy head of the Global Challenges Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Masha Shvab.
There, we discussed their interest in making environmental issues a bigger part of Slovenia’s international agenda. They are working to address sustainable water management and renewable energy and to promote the sciences in all of its schools.
After the meeting, we rode our bikes about 30 km along beautiful trails and back roads out of Ljubjana to the HPP Hydro Power Plant at the confluence of the Sara and Sora Rivers in Medvode. We were led by our host Professor Mladen Franko, who has done an outstanding job of mapping out our routes and taking excellent overall care of us.
At Medvode we toured the Hydro Power Plant and learned about this major source of renewable energy for the country. There are five hydro power plants operating in Slovenia, which provide about one-third of the country’s electricity.
The facilities are also using roof tops for solar collectors. There, we looked at a real time display that showed how much power each collector produced. It was quite impressive.
After our tour, we jumped back on our bikes and headed 35 km to Bled for our overnight. It was another perfect day for riding. We rode through the Julian Alps on a route marked by farms growing potatoes and hay. Along the way, we also passed through several small villages, accented by vegetable and flower gardens.
Our ride concluded with a very steep climb up to our overnight accommodations at the youth hostel.
Today we’re off to Skofja Loka!
As always, you can hear even more news from the tour on David Osterberg’s blog for the Des Moines Register.