In his interview, Julije Domac explores different projects on sustainable energy that had been inspiring during his career, he reflects on the role of renewable energies, such as biomass, in Croatia and much more!
Dr Julije Domac is a recognised international expert with 18 years of experience and more than 60 scientific and professional papers in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency. He works as Managing Director of the North-West Croatia Energy Agency (REGEA) and in the past he acted as the national biomass programme coordinator in Croatia, project leader for UNIDO, lead expert for the World Bank, project director for FAO, expert evaluator for the European Commission (IEE and 6th Framework) and Task Manager for the International Energy Agency (IEA). Julije is President of FEDARENE since 2013.
Julije Domac will be one of the Jury Members of this year Roger Léron Award, as he was in past editions. Fortunately, he made room in his busy agenda to answer some questions on his perspective on the past, present and future of sustainable energy.
REGEA’s main objective and role are promoting and encouraging regional sustainable development in the fields of energy and environmental protection through renewable energy sources (RES) utilization and energy efficiency measures implementation. As Director of REGEA since its creation in 2008, what has been the project that has inspired you the most?
For me, 11 years of working with REGEA was really a privilege and a very special experience. I was always proud when we were able to introduce something new and innovative in our regions and in my country, Croatia. It is hard to say what was the most inspiring project but many times we were able to achieve what many would think impossible. Converting a ruin of a once iconic historic building into the dynamic Bracak Energy Centre, which only last year hosted more than 4,000 visitors, is just one example. I am also proud that I managed to implement the first Croatian biomass district heating plant in the municipality of Pokupsko. Another special project was NEWLIGHT, the first Croatian ELENA project in which we aggregated investment in street lighting retrofit for over 30 cities and municipalities. Today, we try to introduce new and innovative ways of project financing like public-private partnership and blending of EU funds with private capital which is equally challenging.
Biomass is currently getting more popular in the energy sector for its positive implications as renewable energy, such as its stability as it does not depend on weather conditions as others, however, biomass also implies different challenges related to the sustainability of the source materials. During your career, you have worked as the National Biomass programme coordinator for Croatia. What is the role that Biomass has in triggering Energy Transition in Croatia?
It is not widely known that Croatia contributes some 1.1% of global pellet production – this is a huge amount for a small country. I am glad that REGEA, is again among the first in Croatia, to install a pellet boiler in one of our offices. Today, almost every project where we construct a new building or retrofit an existing building contains a pellet boiler. We believe that biomass can contribute to many important elements of national or regional development – economic growth through business expansion and employment; import substitution (direct and indirect economic effects on GDP and trade balance); security of energy supply and energy source diversification. Modern biomass systems are clean, efficient and safe. Application of such systems can also facilitate social changes in rural areas which are of particular importance for a country like Croatia.
This year, the Roger Léron Award is going to celebrate its 5th edition. Fortunately for us, you have been part of the Jury Member for all the years that the award has existed. During these years, you had to evaluate the profile of dozens of pioneers on energy from all around Europe. Also, you are an example of passion and dedication to the sustainable energy sector. What would be your advice for the future generations that would like to work and upgrade this field?
It is great to see that the younger generation is today, more than ever, aware of important issues like climate change and sustainability. I had the chance to participate a few times in the school strikes for climate – in Brussels and in Zagreb and it was always a special experience. I would certainly advise looking for a carrier in sustainable energy. In Europe, this is one of the fastest-growing sectors but working in sustainable energy has always been the most rewarding experience for me. I always enjoyed in fact that we are doing something positive – for the climate, for other people and for our planet Earth. Future development of sustainable energy concepts will require new thinking – one piece of advice would be to look for new and better ways of doing things and to be brave to explore new methods. Finally – have fun! Let me use that famous Thomas Edison quote – “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun”.
We are honoured to have had the opportunity to get to know more about Julije Domac, our president and a pioneer in the field of energy efficiency! Leaders like him inspire many individuals in the field of sustainable energy to keep creating innovative projects.