In addition to reducing economic and social disparities within the enlarged EU, the enlargement contribution is intended to strengthen peripheral regions in partner countries and thereby counter rural-urban migration. With this in mind, Switzerland has supported two energy projects – "Renewable Energy Across the Alpine Land" (REAAL) and "Renewable Energy Sources in Primorska Municipalities (GOLEA) – which reached a total of 20 largely rural municipalities in western Slovenia. The municipalities concerned cover around 14% of the country's land area. Despite this broad coverage, the project was implemented with great efficiency: a total of 41 state schools now heat their buildings using locally sourced wood chips or pellets, and/or "Made in Switzerland" heat pumps. They also generate power from solar panels, and consume less energy thanks to new windows, roofs and wall insulation. What's more, the municipality of Šempeter-Vrtojba is now producing electricity from a noise barrier with an area of almost 1,100 m2.
Emissions targets / promoting the concept of sustainability
The investments are now bearing fruit, with the heating and power bills of all partner municipalities down by around 40-50% per year. Initial measurements indicate CO2 emissions savings of around 1,600 tonnes, or the equivalent of 82,500 car journeys between Bern and Zurich. Furthermore, the municipalities are using local resources, which also strengthens local businesses. Meanwhile, cooperation with schools is not limited exclusively to school principals: each year, several hundred students are given specific lessons on energy efficiency, renewable energies and sustainability. Teachers are supported by the e-learning platform, teaching materials, model buildings and an environmental classroom out in the countryside, all of which were created as part of the projects. In this way, Switzerland is helping significantly to raise awareness among the younger generation. The GOLEA project was even honoured by a respected Slovenian business magazine with the top prize for its work to inform about energy issues.
President Simonetta Sommaruga attends wrap-up event
When President of the Swiss Confederation Simonetta Sommaruga made an official state visit to Slovenia in mid-September, her schedule included the wrap-up event for the REAAL project at Bled Castle. Watched by the Slovenian Minister for Development and Cohesion, Alenka Smerkolj, the mayors of the partner municipalities, and representatives of the schools involved, Ms Sommaruga said how pleased she was at the way in which all of the project partners had worked together so effectively. She emphasised the value of the partnerships that had been forged at all levels, and the benefits for Switzerland in particular, and underlined the importance of sustainability issues and awareness-raising where energy is concerned.