Damjan Medimorec has held different management positions at the Croatian Transmission System Operator HOPS and its predecessors in the last 10 years. Currently he is the Executive Office Director of HOPS in charge of European, institutional and public affairs as well as high-level representation towards European and regional stakeholders and internal coordination of related activities. He has been closely involved in the development of European electricity TSOs' associations from 2001 as member of their different bodies as well as TSOs' service companies.
1) What are current pillars of Croatian energy policy and what implications do they have with respect to grid development?
Croatia is traditionally oriented towards renewable energy sources, at the moment half of the production portfolio are hydro power plants and 10 % are wind farms. Croatia has set very ambitious targets in its national action plan (NREAP) and it seems at the moment that the electricity targets will be successfully met. Transmission grid development (in Croatia there are three transmission voltage levels – 110, 220 and 400 kV) has provided preconditions for RES integration, for ensuring security of supply in the entire service territory (the whole Republic of Croatia) and for cross-border electricity trade. It is important to emphasise that Croatia, due to continuous long-term investments into the transmission network, i.e. cross-border transmission lines, with its interconnectivity factor of 69 % not only exceeds EU targets by far but is also ranked in (at least) the “top five” member states in that respect.
Looking forward, with its ten year network development plan (updated on yearly basis) and related documents HOPS is well prepared for the future challenges of RES integration, decarbonisation of the energy sector and the implementation of energy efficiency measures.
2) The second PCI list has just been published. For Croatia the focus is on stronger interconnection with Slovenia and Hungary and smart grid deployment. Do you believe the list is sufficient?
In fact Croatia already has the major part of total cross-border transmission capacities with Slovenia and Hungary. The final development phase of the project you are referring to started already 20 years ago at trilateral level. It later became a solely Hungarian and Croatian project with the commissioning of a single-circuit 400 kV interconnection in 1999 followed by an extension to a double-circuit interconnection between the two countries in 2004. With the completion of this final phase, in which the Croatian and Hungarian sides only have to prepare and implement different switching arrangements and accompanying operational measures, all three countries will be connected through same facilities. Regarding the second PCI list, HOPS is very proud of the excellent cooperation with the Slovenian TSO ELES and two other partners (Croatian and Slovenian DSOs), which resulted in the inclusion of the smart grid project SINCRO.GRID on that list.
However, we believe that there are severe deficiencies related to the PCI criteria particularly concerning member states with external borders to the Energy Community (EnC). The EnC works with a “PCI counterpart“ called PECI (Projects of EnC interest). However, the recently updated PECI criteria make it impossible for projects at the EU/EnC interface to be eligible for either PCI or PECI if they are not at the same time benefitting at least two EU members states and two EnC contracting parties. As a result two additional HOPS projects, which were on first PCI list (project number 3.5 – new interconnection with Bosnia and Herzegovina and supporting internal lines), have now been removed. In addition to a general wrong signal to the proclaimed single energy regulatory area of the EU and the EnC, this has even more serious consequences for Croatia, due to high interdependence of its power system with the system of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
3) What are the main grid development challenges that HOPS is facing, especially with a view to public participation and environmental protection?
Around 39% of the continental part and 19% of the sea area in Croatia are part of the European Ecological Network Natura2000. As it is impossible for grids to completely avoid such large areas, due to the Croatian legal framework, construction of new grid facilities could be jeopardized and delayed. The main reason for delays is strong public resistance against construction of any kind, not only new power generation capacities (either RES or conventional), but also against grid facilities.
Therefore, HOPS appreciates RGI activities towards mutual better understanding between NGOs and TSOs and hopes that European best practices will help to improve relevant relations also in Croatia.
4) Can you share a good practice with our readers that has helped you overcome any of these challenges?
So far our positive experiences are more related to specific issues not to the above mentioned challenges in general. Recently, HOPS implemented a completely new national dispatching centre, which is fully equipped for the integration of the high amount of intermittent RES. Also, since 2010 HOPS is constantly improving short term wind production forecast – customizing the tools for very specific wind conditions for broader areas of the eastern Adriatic coast – in order to enable higher integration of wind power.
HOPS and other Croatian representatives also actively participate in the EC project “Concerted action – RES”. Although valuable, it was not sufficient in terms of resolving the biggest challenge for higher integration of intermittent RES – lack of available control reserves – without negative impacts on the security of supply.
5) What would you like the Energy Union to deliver?
1. Streamlined strategy and agreed actions for the energy transition in the interest of customers and society as a whole.
2. Removing (or at least reducing) regulatory (and other) gaps between members states but also between obligations (and constraints) for TSOs arising from either EU or member state levels.
3. Not removing subsidiarity where it really helps in dealing with energy challenges but building upon it by joining forces via solidarity for areas where it makes sense.