In September 2017, the Green Energy Cooperative, also known as Zelena Energetska Zadruga or ZEZ, launched the first crowd-investing initiative on renewable energy projects in Croatia. With the support of stakeholders within and outside of the city of Krizevci, ZEZ collected financial investments from individual citizens to install solar power plants on public roofs.

In ten days, the first solar photovoltaic project, which is located on top of a Development Center and Technology Park, attracted 53 citizen investors who pooled together a total of 30,000 euros. As investors, the citizens who lent money are paid pack with 4.5% fixed interest. For the second solar photovoltaic project, located on top of the city library, it only took two days and 40 investors to invest 23, 165 euros. In return, citizen investors are paid back with 3% interest.

Stakeholders from the city of Krizevci, Croatia and public authorities from Aradippou, Cyprus meet in front of the public library where the second photovoltaic project funded by crowd funding campaigns is installed.

Although existing laws do not recognize alternative sources of financing in the public sector, the desire of citizens to be part of a new and innovative project facilitated the success of the crowd-investing campaign. Today, ZEZ draws the interest of public authorities and other stakeholders from other countries in Europe who are interested in financing solar roofs and other energy projects via crowdfunding campaigns.

Through the peer-to-peer learning programme of PROSPECT, representatives from ZEZ met local public authorities from Bulgaria and Cyprus. Maria Manalova, a project manager from the Center of Energy Efficiency (EnEffect) in Sofia, Bulgaria, is responsible for developing sustainable energy plans, and is interested in learning about different ways of funding municipal energy projects. From Aradippou in Cyprus, Matheos Alambritis and Pantelis Sioukas are working in the local municipal government as chief executive secretary and as member of the municipal council, respectively.

Participants from Sofia, Bulgaria and Aradippou, Cyprus discuss with ZEZ about crowdfunding campaigns.

Last July 8 and 9, 2019, they all met together in Croatia. First, ZEZ facilitated two workshops: one on Design Thinking and System Innovation, while the other focused on business model canvas. With the use of different tools, the participants elaborated on their project ideas, identified stakeholders, among others to unlock the box of opportunities and solve problems for enhancing business and operation models. After the workshops, ZEZ introduced crowdfunding for energy projects with the example of the Krizevci solar roofs.

Meeting the mayor of Krizevic, Mario Rajn, and the director of the Development Center and Technology Park, Tihomir Hodak, on financing and implementing energy projects in the city.

On the second day, the participants toured around the project sites and met the stakeholders: Mario Rajn, the mayor of the city of Krizevci; Tihomir Hodak, the Director of the Development Center and Technological Park; and Marjana Janes-Zulj, Director of the City Library. According to Marjana, “by building photovoltaic power plant on the roof of the town library, our library will become the first solar library in Croatia whereas the town of Krizevci is another step closer to achieving the goal of an energy independent town by 2030”.