Ljubljana, the 13th of April 2023 – At the ELES headquarters, mag. Aleksander Mervar, the CEO of ELES, the electricity transmission system operator, signed an umbrella agreement with the Municipality of Murska Sobota, represented by Mayor Damjan Anželj together with Deputy Mayor dr. Timi Gomboc, on connecting the heating sectors with the electricity system.
The purpose of the agreement is that, in the coming months, the experts from ELES and the Municipality of Murska Sobota will combine their competencies and identify common project goals in the field of electricity and heat production, which will be realistically feasible and in accordance with the concept of long-term heating KODO, developed by ELES. For the identified projects, suitable strategic partners and appropriate funding sources, especially grants, will be sought. The purpose of the joint operation is non-profit, for the benefit of the citizens of the Municipality of Murska Sobota as well as the citizens of the Republic of Slovenia. The experience gained from the implemented projects will also be presented to other interested local communities. In the identified projects and their realization, we will look for possible synergies with Slovenian companies both regarding the development and the implementation of investments.
The CEO of ELES, mag. Aleksander Mervar accompanied the signing with the following: “We are all familiar with the direction of the EU in the field of energy, specifically electricity. I can summarize it in four key directions: sustainable energy development, the green transition, electrification and integration, or more specifically, the single EU electricity market.
The Republic of Slovenia, as a member of the EU, adopts the directions and guidelines of the European Union. As I have repeatedly and timely emphasized in my statements: the transition will not be easy, nor will it be cheap. Certain technological solutions are still in their infancy, by this I mean mainly the conversion of excess electricity into hydrogen, its storage, transport and reuse. Depending on the development of this technology, the scale and speed of the green transformation will also be dependant. The most crucial dilemma that has been occurring to me in recent years is what amount of electricity will be needed for the electrification of transport and heating in particular. From which production sources will it be generated, at what price and also how to coordinate at least 15-minute diagrams of production and consumption.
During the period from December 2021 to April 2022, the group which consisted of myself, Prof. dr. Jože P. Damijan, dr. Dejan Paravan and mag. Drago Babič, at the request of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, prepared a study that dealt with the content of the optimal structure of production resources for Slovenia, which, together with imports, should cover the estimated future 15-minute intervals of electricity consumption. In this study, on the side of energy generation resources until 2050, we emphasized: nuclear and hydro as the main technologies, building cogeneration units for low-quality wood mass, building a central cogeneration unit for non-hazardous municipal waste, and massively implementing renewable energy generation resources, especially solar power plants, if possible concentrated in locations with larger installed capacities.
Around the end of 2019, ELES started conducting in-depth analyses and research outside of our core business, which is electricity transmission. We mainly discussed the future, massive transformation of traffic in the direction of electrification and the highly increased use of heat pumps as a source of energy for heating and preparation of hot sanitary water. We have come to the conclusion that a successful transformation will require close cross-sectoral cooperation with stakeholders from the fields of electricity, thermal energy supply and transport. So far, in the light of these findings, we have already signed a number of agreements. Our assessment is that the mass connection of heat pumps will be a much bigger challenge especially due to the aspect of their simultaneous use, which on cold days means electricity consumption rather than the electrification of traffic. This represents a potentially extraordinary challenge especially for ELES as the one responsible for the smooth operation of the Slovenian electricity network, as well as for electricity distribution companies in Slovenia.
Today, I am signing a bilateral umbrella agreement with the mayor, Mr. Damjan Anželj, on the basis of which, in the coming months, we will combine the competencies of our employees in order to identify common project goals in the field of electricity and thermal energy generation. The latter are all realistically feasible and for which we will look for suitable strategic partners and sources of financing, especially in the area of grants. The purpose of the joint operation is non-profit, for the benefit of the citizens of the Municipality of Murska Sobota and the Republic of Slovenia. We intend to share our experience with other stakeholders in the territory of the Republic of Slovenia. Within these projects, we will also look for possible synergies with Slovenian companies both in the development and implementation of investments.“
Mag. Gregor Goričar, the coordinator for strategies & innovations at ELES, added after the conclusion: “The signed umbrella agreement on connecting the heating sector with the electricity system between ELES and the Municipality of Murska Sobota is already the third such in a row. Before that, ELES signed similar umbrella agreements with the Municipality of Ljubljana and Energetika Ljubljana, the Municipality of Velenje and the Municipality of Šoštanj.
The basic purpose of the signed agreements is the further identification of project goals in the field of supplying local communities with electricity and heat. The identified project goals in each local community further represent the substantive building blocks of the action plans that municipalities or local communities need to carry out in regards to the decarbonisation of the electricity and thermal energy supply in accordance with Slovenia's commitments to the European Union and the national energy climate plan. Here at ELES, after a careful analysis of in-depth studies, we have come to the conclusion that the massive connection of small heat pumps will be a much bigger challenge for the electricity system due to the aspect of their simultaneous use on colder days. This means an increased consumption of electricity rather than the electrification of traffic, a subject with which ELES is also intensively involved in. I believe the latter to be a great challenge for ELES and electricity distribution companies in Slovenia. The Municipality of Murska Sobota is a model example in the Republic of Slovenia due to the potential of geothermal energy and the existing wells, which represent a sustainable source of thermal energy for the local district heating system, which currently uses natural gas for heating. ELES puts to the forefront the existing district heating systems, as well as modern 4 and 5 generation systems, which will represent the backbone of the transition of local communities to green, low-carbon heating in a way that will utilize local renewable energy sources, as well as reduce energy losses through much-needed energy rehabilitation. By introducing the concept of long-term heating KODO, ELES aims to provide local communities with cost-effective sustainable heating with a minimal future environmental footprint, as well as to ensure the smooth operation of the electricity system in the future at the expense of minimizing the entry of heat pumps and to reduce import dependence on energy products and electricity in the Republic of Slovenia. We share our knowledge and experience regionally and internationally in the field of connecting sectors both through European development research projects and in ENTSO-E organizations, and last but not least, the most prestigious universities such as Oxford.”
The Mayor of the Municipality of Murska Sobota, Damjan Anželj, emphasized at the time of the signing: ”As an efficient and responsible mayor in the municipality, I do not want to leave anything to chance, especially not the serious hardships of our citizens, who need our concrete guidance and help. The decision to ask for opinions and solutions from the biggest experts in our country and in the region, i.e. ELES, and to join forces and knowledge, results today in the beginning of cooperation, which will bring tangible benefits for our citizens and further serve as an example of good practice of successful integration of the electricity economy and urban and local communities.”