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Croatian offshore renewables potential up to 25GW, study finds

By Svitlana  Pyrkalo

  • EBRD-supported report on Croatia’s offshore renewables potential launched in Zagreb
  • Possibility of unlocking up to 25 GW of offshore wind discussed at RES Croatia event
  • Bank stands ready to provide further policy support and financing

A new EBRD-funded report, entitled Action Plan for the Uptake of Offshore Renewable Energy Sources in Croatia, has been launched today in Zagreb. 

The report, written by Croatian experts and coordinated by the Renewable Energy Sources of Croatia (RES Croatia) Association, identifies areas in the Adriatic Sea suitable for renewable energy generation, which could far surpass the country’s current onshore renewable energy capacity and reach levels comparable to Europe’s entire offshore wind power capacity. 

At the report’s launch in Zagreb, local and international experts discussed the steps necessary to unlock this potential, including an enabling regulatory framework. 

The study identified more than 29,000 km² of offshore area available for renewables, including offshore wind (both bottom-fixed and floating) and floating photovoltaic power plants. This includes several low-impact areas in the northern part of the Adriatic Sea, where up to 25 GW of offshore wind capacity that could be installed.

Victoria Zinchuk, EBRD Director for Central Europe, said: “The identified potential of up to 25 GW of offshore wind capacity in low-impact areas alone could turn Croatia into a major European player in the renewable energy sector over the next decade. At present, the total installed bottom-fixed offshore wind capacity in Europe is 30 GW. Croatia should tap into this potential as soon as possible to increase European energy security in the medium to long term. I thank all those who worked on this study for showcasing this incredible promise. Of course, a lot of stakeholder effort will be required to realise it, including further regulatory reforms, community engagement and investment. The EBRD, the largest enabler and financier of renewable energy in the region, stands ready to support Croatia with both technical cooperation and finance.” 

Maja Pokrovac, CEO of Renewable Energy Sources of Croatia, said: "Increasing offshore RES can be used for the growth of the national economy. Numerous Croatian companies have already cooperated with the scientific and academic community in the field of production of equipment, installations and other components for onshore RES. In the future, the shipbuilding industry could be linked to the development of offshore renewables, because Croatian shipyards have production capacities that can support the construction and installation of wind turbines at sea. Further research and innovation are necessary in order for offshore RES to reach full momentum and efficiency with lower costs and reduced impact on the environment, We are proud that experts from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture of the University of Zagreb, OIKON Ltd. - the Institute for Applied Ecology and the Island Movement participated in the preparation of this study. As RES Croatia, we always emphasize that Croatia can achieve energy self-sufficiency, and megawatts of wind and photovoltaic offshore power plants can certainly contribute to this."

The study recommends developing a national maritime spatial plan, starting with the low- and medium-impact areas identified, including those areas in Croatia’s National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), which is currently under review. The report also recommends designing an auction scheme, appointing a single contact point for renewable energy developers, conducting further technical studies and embarking on engagement with local stakeholders. Croatia’s current 10-year plan to upgrade its electricity transmission system should also allow for potential significant new offshore renewables capacity, it says, as well as the plans of neighbouring countries to develop their own offshore renewables. 

The report cites the current work of the Croatian Hydrocarbon Agency to evaluate its existing and obsolete offshore gas fields for potential conversion to renewables and suggests exploring the numerous shipyards, built before independence and well connected to requisite infrastructure, for conversion into offshore renewable servicing hubs. It also identifies additional medium-impact areas with significant potential of up to 32GW.  

Croatia, which relies on imports for about half of its energy needs, aims to increase domestic electricity generation from renewable sources. According to 2021 data, the total wind and solar energy installed capacity in Croatia is 1.2 GW; total renewable capacity rises to 4.9 GW if hydropower and other sources are included. While energy prices currently allow for a market-based approach – meaning that renewable electricity is competitively merchant priced and state subsidies are not needed at current price levels – investment is being hampered by lengthy permitting processes at both the local and national level. 

There is currently little solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed in the country, but a sizeable pipeline exists over the next decade. A draft law to allow the combined use of land for solar power and agricultural production may open up additional solar opportunities. Another EBRD-funded report on the potential of agri-solar in Croatia is expected to be published in the coming months, adding to the research published today.

To date, the EBRD has invested more than €4.4 billion in Croatia, with almost €300 million of that invested in 2022. 

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