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Slovenia steps up the efforts to clean the nation’s energy bill
Hydropower plant near Brežice in Southeastern Slovenia. / Photo: STO, Andrej Tarfila

The first major hydrogen valley in Europe, the adoption of the smart grid principles on a national level, and 3.5 billion euros worth investment in more efficient and resilient infrastructure are some of the steps taken by Slovenia towards more sustainable energy practices.

Slovenian energy companies step up their efforts to reach goals related to greenhouse gas emissions and overall sustainability. The national distribution system operator SODO plans to invest 3.5 billion euros in the network in the next ten years. The largest part of the sum will go into low and medium voltage networks making them more efficient and less vulnerable to extreme weather effects. A substantial bulk of the investment will also go to smart grid technologies. Slovenian transmission system operator ELES plans to invest 800 million euros towards modernizing the network. ELES has partnered with its Croatian counterpart HOPS to create SINCRO.GRID, the first European smart grid Project of Common Interest, or PCI. The SINCRO.GRID »is a virtual cross-border control center that facilitates new electricity generation from renewable energy sources in Slovenia and Croatia and its safe and efficient integration into the grid«.

The project was completed in late 2022. That same year saw the completion of another smart grid project, the Japanese-Slovenian partnership NEDO. The aim of the project was to use advanced secondary equipment, cloud-based information, and communication technologies to better exploit the existing grid rather than invest in its expansion. The unique aspect of NEDO is that it implements smart grid principles on a national level, whereas similar projects focus on smaller areas and communities.

20 percent of the electricity produced in Slovenia currently comes from power plants with coal as the main energy source. Solar and wind represent only 2 percent of the electricity consumed. This is soon to change. Solar plants built in 2022 have added 250 MW of capacity. The government plans to increase the capacity of photovoltaic production by 1GW before 2025.

Slovenia, Italy, and Croatia have joined hands in a project which will create the first major hydrogen area in Europe: The North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley. The project led by Slovenian energy company HSE will cover the entire chain, production, storage, distribution, and end use. The aim is to produce over 5,000 tonnes of hydrogen per year and decarbonize transportation and industrial sectors like steel and cement production. Construction of the facilities will begin later this year. A similar project, but on a much smaller scale, is taking place in the ex-coal mining region of Zasavje in Central Slovenia. It will produce 250 tonnes of »clean« hydrogen for local use.

Some of the technology used in these projects is developed locally. The NEDO smart grid project for example uses both Japanese and Slovenian made components and solutions. Several Slovenian companies provide software and IT solutions for power grids, most notably Iskra Emeco and Iskratel. Iskra develops control, communication, and protection systems for power grids. Dewesoft focuses on high precision power measurement and analysis equipment. SIAPRO and Hidropower build small hydropower plants. Mebius develops components for fuel cells, while Bisol is a well-established European producer of photovoltaic modules: in 2020 the Slovenian company developed the world's first solar module capable of retaining its total capacity after 25 years of use.

The pursuit of sustainability goals and the mitigation of global warming have become imperative in today's world. Slovenia positions itself as being “green”, being a responsible member of the global community and providing a pioneering ground for new approaches simply comes with the role.

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