In south-eastern Europe, pollution rates are unnecessarily high because of outdated technologies. Traditional bioenergy is still a crucial source of energy, but greater uptake of modern bioenergy technologies is needed. The countries lack financial schemes and experience in this area. Moreover, alternative energy projects often meet resistance, and investment confidence is rather low. “Bioenergy villages offer great promise in meeting these challenges,” says Jens Adler, coordinator of the EU-funded BioVill project. “Bioenergy villages have successfully emerged in Austria and Germany, combining market orientation and sustainable energy supply at the municipal level by involving all societal stakeholders. BioVill transferred and adapted these experiences to Croatia, the Republic of North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia, and developed regional bioenergy concepts up to the investment stage.” Fostering the development of regional bioenergy BioVill began by selecting seven target villages based on criteria like motivation, available bioenergy resources and infrastructure. Together with the local partners, the team analysed national and local frameworks, and obtained data on existing infrastructure, local energy potential and demands. The results were used to plan local bioenergy projects. The consortium provided modern planning and calculation tools and strengthened partners’ capacities for assessing technological and economic viability of development options. As a result, suitable technical solutions and business models have been elaborated for each of the target villages. Furthermore, BioVill supported dialogue with local and national politicians and cooperation between different policy areas to optimise the regulatory framework and better implement EU legislation. Since the implementation processes will continue after the project’s end, decision-makers in all villages signed a letter of commitment demonstrating their willingness to continue the bioenergy projects and secure necessary investments. Knowledge transfer and stakeholder involvement BioVill trained more than 550 key stakeholders to implement the bioenergy village concept, exploit its commercial opportunities, and develop economic assessments and viable business models. Information and training events included a best-practice examples catalogue, three study tours to Germany and Austria, and ten training measures on management and financing of bioenergy villages. Information points and 28 information events organised for 2 200 citizens increased awareness, knowledge and confidence. Local bioenergy working groups helped to elaborate local bioenergy concepts and strategic bioenergy goals for the villages. Government officials participated in project efforts to ensure the necessary political commitment. In addition, seminars and outreach events attracted the interest of stakeholders from other communities. “BioVill has initiated many changes towards the implementation of bioenergy projects and the establishment of bioenergy villages, thus boosting market uptake of sustainable bioenergy,” concludes Adler. “The concept is now much better known, public acceptance is higher and heat consumers are much more willing to connect to a modern biomass-based district heating system.” When fully implemented in the next few years, the planned investments in modern bioenergy district heating systems will mobilise around 83 GWh heat and 16 GWh electricity per year. More than 110 new jobs will be created and CO2 emissions will be reduced substantially, fostering local economic development and decarbonisation of the energy sector in the partner countries.
BioVill, bioenergy, bioenergy village, district heating system, renewable resources, sustainable energy, decarbonisation