Successful EEA Grants match making event in Reykjavik between Iceland, Poland and Romania


On October 23rd Orkustofnun (National Energy Authority), in cooperation with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Environment in Poland and Innovation Norway in Romania, held an EEA Grants match making event in Reykjavik on ​​renewable energy, geothermal district heating, energy efficiency, environment and climate. 

About 30 people from ministries, institutions, companies, universities and municipalities from Poland and Romania attended as well as about 50 Icelandic experts.

The event was split into sessions for presentations, bilateral discussions and match making between parties from Iceland, Poland and Romania, regarding possible cooperation in the area of renewable energy, geothermal energy, energy efficiency etc. The event was successful, and important step for further preparation of cooperation within the EEA Grants programme in the concerning countries.

The meeting was part of the preparation for the new EEA Grants funding mechanism period 2014-2021 in the field of renewable energy, geothermal district heating and energy efficiency, in Poland and Romania, with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In recent months, Orkustofnun (National Energy Authority of Iceland) has been working on the preparation of the new programme in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iceland and similar institutions in Norway, and relevant countries in Eastern and Central Europe and the EEA Grants Financial Mechanism Office in Brussels. 

Jónas Ketilsson Deputy Director General of Orkustofnun, opened the event. In his presentation he pointed out that economic benefits for Iceland from using geothermal district heating instead of heating by oil, has been about 80 billion Isk. per year for the few last years. He also stated the importance of this conference now due to upcoming geothermal district heating programs in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria.

Ambassador Þórir Ibsen, mentioned that the Energy Programmes in Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland and Romania, offer ample opportunities for funding geothermal energy projects. In that regard, house heating is of great importance. The role of the EEA Grants is to support projects that enhance social and economic cohesion in Europe. Sustainable, reliable and environmentally sound central heating is fundamental for social progress and wellbeing.

In remarks from Poland, Bogusz Piotr from the Polish Ministry of the Environment, stated that €140 million would be available for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change program in Poland that would start in the beginning of 2020, and most of the fund, or €100 million (72%), would be for renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy security.

Beata Kepinska and Leszek Pajak, from the Mineral & Energy Economy Research Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences, (Merri Pas), highlighted that the institution had longa and broad scope of research, expertise and foreign cooperation experience. The Institute has worked on two geothermal EEA projects in cooperation with Orkustofnun in the past, the Geothermal energy potential in Poland – town Poddebice, 2016-2017 and Geothermal energy – a basis for low-emission heating, improving living conditions and sustainable development, 2017. There is also another project in preparation in Poland with Orkustofnun, the Capacity Building of Key Stakeholders in the Area of Geothermal Energy 2020-2025.

Jacek Szymczak, from the District Heating Chamber of Commerce in Poland, mentioned that about 400 companies have licences for district heating, installed power is 55 GW, and length of networks is about 21.000 km and 72% still use coal for fuel. The goals for district heating companies would be improving air quality, reducing the impact on climate change and improving energy security and there would be a lot of reconstruction work ahead in the district heating sector in Poland.

Marcin Jamiolkowski, from the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management, mentioned that the fund has a long experience and comprehensive support, with a staff of 700. There is increasing support for geothermal energy, up to €145 million in the form of grants and/or loans – in addition to the €140 million from the EEA Grants program.

Raluca Fanaru, from Innovation Norway in Romania, talked about energy and business and innovation programmes in Romania. The budget for the energy programme is €29,8 million, for renewable energy development, energy efficiency, training and awareness, R&D, electrification of households and bilateral activities. The geothermal call has been closed, but the energy efficiency call is still open as well as travel support. Upcoming calls within the energy program are research and development and training and awareness, both open in early 2020.

Adrian Foghis, Director, Oradea Metropolitan Area in Romania, described a successful geothermal project from last EEA Grant period, for improving district heating power plant and injection well in Oradea, with new technology and more automation. The population of Oradea is about 250 thousands and the district heating system cover 64.000 apartments, in addition to several public and private companies. In addition, Oradea in cooperation with Orkustofnun, did also worked on Pre-Feasibility Study of Geothermal district heating in Oradea, that is valuable for development of additional new projects.

Ionut Tanase, Counsellor from Ilfov County in Romania, describe successful geothermal projects in the last EEA program period, harnessing geothermal water resources from Balotesti North Perimeter for district heating the Emergency Hospital. He mentioned that there were also several geothermal heating opportunities in this area of Romania.

The match making event was also organised back to back with the Sustainable District Heating Conference, (SDEC) 23–25 of October. Tina Sölveberg, Senior Sector Officer at the financial Mechanism Office in Brussels, attended the SDEC conference, and spoke about the EEA Grants. She highlighted that the implementation period of the program is 2018-2024, and the EEA Grants budget was €1,5 bn for 15 EU member states. The main objectives of the EEA Grants is reducing disparities and strengthening cooperation between donor and beneficiary states. One of the main priorities within the Grants is the environment and energy program and innovation and research.       

The Match Making Conference was a part of Orkustofnun preparation for the new EEA Grant program 2014–2021 (implementation 2018-2024), that will launch open calls, for projects for €62,8 million in Romania that have already started and will start open calls within few months in Poland for about €140 million and soon in Bulgaria for €13 million. In all these programmes there are travel grants available for preparation and cooperation between companies and countries. The moderator of the conference was Baldur Pétursson, Manager International Projects and PR at Orkustofnun.

The main objective of the EEA Grants energy programmes is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security in the countries concerned, increasing the use of renewable energy, with special emphasis on geothermal energy and hydroelectric power. Contributions from Iceland within the EEA Grants are some of the largest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, Orkustofnun is the donor programme partner for programmes covering, renewable energy development, geothermal district heating, environment and climate change. Being a donor programme partner includes providing advisory services to the programme operator in the beneficiary country, as well as companies, institutions and persons, in all phases of programme and project developments and implementation. This cooperation aims at increasing geothermal development for district heating and other activities, by sharing the expertise of Iceland in this sector.

In recent years and months Orkustofnun, in collaboration with foreign and national partners, has worked on pre-defined projects within the EEA Grants framework, in form of evaluating options and possibilities in Romania (Oradea and Beius) in Poland in (Poddebice) and (other towns and cities) and Croatia, (see report ). These projects can be useful in preparation for larger investments and future EEA Grants open calls. Further information on the EEA Grants Programme 2014 – 2021, can be found on the website of Orkustofnun.

All presentations from the Match Making Geothermal Event Meeting on 23 October can be found at the conference agenda and the Sustainable District Heating Conference (SDEC), 23-25 October,  Conference Program and the SDEC presentations from speakers can be seen here.