Newlight: Street Lights Updated in 75 Croatian Cities and Municipalities

Lauren Simmonds

As Novac/Lidija Kiseljak/ writes on the 14th of August, 2020, the NEWLIGHT project is the first project in the Republic of Croatia ever co-financed from the ELENA programme, a joint technical assistance programme of the European Commission and the European Investment Bank. The ELENA programme is intended for the preparation of major infrastructure projects across European regions and cities in the field of clean energy, transport and buildings.

NEWLIGHT was developed by the Regional Energy Agency of Northwest Croatia (REGEA) for two Croatian counties – the Krapina-Zagorje and Zagreb counties with the aim of innovative financing and launching a larger range of investments in the field of public lighting. The value of the implemented investments is around 100 million kuna, and the project also generated energy savings of around 60 percent when compared to the current situation, meaning around 20 GWh, and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 5,200 tonnes per year.

This project is the candidate of choice for the best European Union project, and is part of the ”Contribution to the local and regional community” category.

Through the NEWLIGHT project, investments have been launched in the reconstruction of public lighting in as many as 57 Croatian cities and municipalities, which is a unique case in Croatia and a widely recognised result throughout the European Union. It deals primarily with the modernisation of over 35,000 old street lights, which achieves financial savings of more than ten million kuna per year.

The project posed a huge challenge because it was supposed to unite multiple Croatian cities and municipalities up and down the country around one idea and vision – energy efficient public lighting to raise the quality of life of citizens.

The implementation of the project began back in 2017 with the application for technical assistance funds. In preparation for the project, more than 72,000 lighting fixtures were inspected, and the GIS database, which was developed for the project and which cities and municipalities continue to use, contains an enormous amount of data on public lighting in their respective areas. As part of the REGEA project, the team has developed its own methodology for energy audits, which is slowly becoming a new national standard, and an innovative model called “Design and Build” has been developed, on which reconstruction contracts are based.

In this way, two important phases of the project are connected – both the design and the reconstruction of the lighting, which significantly reduces the risks for the contracting authority.

The crown of the NEWLIGHT project is a new and unique Energy Performance Contract drawn up in accordance with Eurostat guidelines which is not considered to mark an increase in public debt for cities and municipalities.

The ESCO contract which was developed by REGEA as part of the project contains more than 60 pages, with all of the necessary attachments and the legal documentation signed by the contracting authority for the reconstruction of public lighting.

The contract that REGEA drew up for this occasion is more detailed than anything seen on the Croatian market so far. In first place is the protection of public money with the implementation of infrastructure projects that should increase the quality of life of citizens.

”This is an exceptional project, so far, no one in the Republic of Croatia has used the funds of the ELENA programme, the EU technical assistance programme for regions and large cities. We’ve shown that the knowledge of Croatian experts can be equally valuable to the best in Europe. Our two counties have played the role of linking investments in a larger area, regardless of administrative boundaries. This is certainly an indicator of how it can be done in Croatia. Regardless of the realised investments in cities and larger municipalities, the benefits of the project are very visible for small municipalities as well,” says Zagreb County Prefect Stjepan Kozic.

“The NEWLIGHT project was presented back in October 2016 in Brussels, Belgium, in the Committee of the Regions of the European Union in front of about 250 participants and was recognised as an example of project aggregation and good practice not only in Croatia but also at the European Union level.

Few projects can successfully bring together so many cities and municipalities, so many different people with different lists of priorities, and yet set one clear goal for all – improving public lighting.

At the level of Krapina-Zagorje County, 28 local self-government units were included in this project with a capital value of the project of reconstruction and modernisation of public lighting standing at about 2 million euros. Such an intervention wouldn’t be possible from the budget of local self-government units alone, and the ELENA programme has made this possible. The reconstruction of 8000 street lights not only means better, and therefore safer lighting for pedestrians and drivers, it will also achieve potential energy and cost savings of 60 percent at the level of Krapina-Zagorje County and reduce the amount of CO2 emissions by 700 tonnes per year. The equivalent of those savings can be expressed by the consumption of about 1000 average households in Croatia,” says Krapina-Zagorje County Prefect Zeljko Kolar.

How successful the project is can be shown by the fact that in February 2019, it received the prestigious European Energy Services Award (EESA) in Brussels.

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