Ljubljana – Slovenia is looking to better utilise its geothermal energy potential, not only for tourism, but also in seeking innovative solutions in many other fields, including food production and district heating. There are already some good examples in this respect, heard an online event held to present the GEOFOOD project.
The Slovenian partner in the Geothermal Energy for Circular Food Production (GEOFOOD) project is the Brežice-based Faculty of Tourism, which is promoting a debate in Slovenia on the future use of geothermal energy in the country.
The faculty, which is part of the University of Maribor, recently hosted an online event on the promotion of the use of geothermal energy and green future of Slovenia, moderated by Slovenian project coordinator Maja Turnšek.
Turnšek said that the future in this field was not only in exploiting geothermal energy for spa tourism, but also in several other fields, including food production and heating in local communities.
“There are already certain cases of best practice in Slovenia,” she said, mentioning the flower producer Ocean Orchids and the tomato grower Paradajz, both based in the north-eastern region of Prekmurje.
Martina Gračner of the Energy Directorate agreed that geothermal energy will be important in the future and that it should be utilised to the greatest possible extent. She pointed to the EU climate policy goals and the related increase in the share of renewable energy.
Gračner noted that a binding goal for Slovenia was to increase this share to 27% by 2030. Although the relevant strategy defines numerous measures in the field of geothermal energy, there are still fewer measures than in other relevant segments.
Among other things, it envisages investment incentives, development of geothermal energy for district heating and cooling, and its multi-purpose use, including for food production, development of tourism and similar, added the Infrastructure Ministry representative.
According to her, between 20 and 30 million euros from the EU funds will be available for these measures, and an additional 4-5 million is expected to come from Norwegian funds.
“The fact is that this field is not systemically regulated as we would like it to be,” Gračner said, noting that potential contractors and investors were poorly informed and that there was no umbrella national strategy that would help launch projects.
She added that the geothermal energy potential had not been fully explored in Slovenia, and that the legislative framework had not been finalised. This is a priority, and only then concrete projects could be launched.
Boštjan Petelinc of the Agriculture Ministry said that the ministry was open for such projects, noting that north-eastern Slovenia and the Ljubljana basin were the most prospective regions in terms of geothermal energy use.
“In the last two years I had many talks with people who looked for possibilities of cooperation, but their planned primary activity was production of electricity, which is not within our domain,” he added.
Petelinc sees potential in heating of greenhouses, agricultural land and fish farms, in heating or cooling of stables, and the use of geothermal energy for cold storage rooms, for thawing snow on agricultural land, or drying of produce.
Also seeing great opportunities for investing in geothermal energy utilisation in Slovenia is Marko Pukšič of the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, who heads the inter-ministerial task force for geothermal energy.
Pukšič noted that the EU financial mechanisms would put a great emphasis on renewable energy in the coming years. Money for this is still available in the current financial perspective, and the recovery fund will also be an important source.
Around EUR 712 million will thus be available for sustainable and green transition, and as much as a third of funds in the next financial perspective will be dedicated for this purpose, he added.