The mayor leading an Energy & Climate Agency

Discover the insightful interview with Vlasta Krmelj, FEDARENE Vice-President for Financing and Investments, CEO of ENERGAP, and Mayor of Selnica ob Dravi, as she shares her unique perspective on leading an Energy & Climate Agency and offers valuable advice on securing funding for energy transition projects.

The mayor leading an Energy & Climate Agency

ENERGAP moved from an Energy Agency to an Energy & Climate Agency. What does this evolution signify?

We all know that fossil fuels are belligerents of climate change. Established in 2006, ENERGAP began in the field of sustainable energy; since 2012, we also specialise in financing energy projects. Now, the rapid progression of climate change in our region means an organisational understanding of climate change and adaptation at ENERGAP. Our municipality, Maribor (Slovenia’s second largest), has recognised the necessity of climate neutrality projects. Therefore, a new task was assigned to the agency and our name consequently changed in March 2022.

Already a reputable energy agency, I am sure that with new skills on climate, we will remain valuable to our municipality. Mitigation and adaptation action plans are vital for a brighter future. If energy efficiency, renewables and adaptation measures combine, the positive impact multiply and projects will cost less.

You are uniquely both a mayor & an energy agency director. How do these roles converge?

We Mayors are representatives of the people. They understand the needs, challenges and opportunities of the entire community. Though climate change issues are the most pressing for the global planet, a mayor is not always able to see this clearly because of their local responsibilities. As Director, I am convinced that the only path to sustainability is to act decisively on climate challenges. As a leader, I try to make all decisions from a mitigation or adaptation perspective, whether it’s social, healthcare, or any other issue. I am first an activist for a sustainable future, and only thereafter a mayor.

Public authorities used to be confronted by a lack of funding for energy transition projects.
Today, much more support is available, yet some barriers remain. What is your advice to those looking for funding?

There are many funding programmes and financial mechanisms available at EU and national level. As an individual, I am stubbornly optimistic: I believe there is a lot of money for good projects. If a project is not carried out, it is not for a lack of money but issues like poor technical details and administration. My advice to all project developers: work hard on these aspects; prepare various economic projections; take into account all (sometimes hidden) costs, possible benefits, and losses. With good data and solid forecasts, financial professionals will find the right mechanisms to implement. New EU regulations on sustainable finance mean that the cost of capital and insurance will be higher for unsustainable projects, and investors are definitely looking for environmentally-friendly investments; after all, the costs of not implementing the green transition will be much higher.

Vlasta Krmelj is FEDARENE Vice-President for Financing and Investments. She is also CEO of ENERGAP and Mayor of Selnica ob Dravi (SI)

This interview is part of our publication “Sustainable Regions in Action 2023”. Find out more by clicking here to discover best practices from FEDARENE members as well as an overview of our activities.