Vlasta Krmelj has a diploma and PhD degree in chemical technology. She is the director of the Regional Energy Agency for Podravje (EnergaP) in Maribor in Slovenia. She has over 15 years of experience in environmental technologies, sustainable development, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, professional expertise in energy management and EU projects. Furthermore, she was a project leader in more than 20 international projects. In recent years, Vlasta has received 2 awards as an Energy Manager and a Silver Award from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia and the Styria Chamber of Commerce for Innovation in the Field of Energy Planning. Already during her postgraduate studies, she received awards and prizes for my work at home and abroad (Henkel Ring, the Krka Prize, the International Messer Award, the American Federation of Fat Chemistry Award and the Frank C. Naughton Award). She is an expert in the strategical planning and financing of energy-related projects. She is also a lecturer at Maribor high school. Since December 2018, she is also been a Mayor of Slovene municipality, Selnica ob Dravi.
As if this were not enough, Vlasta Krmelj decided to use her expertise in the field to take part in the decision of who will be the next winner of the Roger Léron Award, as a Jury Member. We could not be happier to count such a personality in the Jury.
“Taking a look at your professional career it is hard not to be astonished, this is why it is not surprising that it has been recognized through different distinctions. In this year’s edition of the Roger Léron Award, FEDARENE highlighted some criteria such as creativity and strategic vision, to award this prize. In your opinion, what is the main quality that has helped you to overcome challenges and barriers in your professional career?
I think the main quality is the willingness to learn and to try new things. I agree that creativity and strategic vision are very important to navigate between different challenges in life. But you also have to dare to try. I believe that we have to try to be sure how to do it properly. In my life, I fell many times, but I knew why and have learned out of it. Next time, I was able to change and improve the ideas and work. As a result, I am not afraid of not doing the project perfectly, nevertheless that I try. In some projects, the most important result was just to break the ice and looking back I am happy with it and even happier when sometimes later I have seen better results. I am also very satisfied if I start the project and someone else finishes it. I am not jealous or angry about some stolen ideas. Actually, I take it as proof that the ideas were good and have motivation for new ones.
EnergaP has led different regions through projects related to Energy Transition. A proof of it is your participation in Streetlight-EPC supporting two Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) projects in street lighting in two Municipalities in Slovenia. And its performance as a Mentor sharing knowledge and experiences on EPC and street lighting to the Câmara Municipal de Loures (PT), inside the PROSPECT project. After your experience sharing your expertise about EPC with different municipalities of Europe, what do you think that are the main challenges for implementing EPC as a funding scheme for energy transition projects?
Many people still think of EPC just as only a financial source to implement energy projects. In my project, I have cooperated in different stages of establishing a partnership with the private sector I have learnt and experienced that EPC is much more than just a financing model. It is the agreement about good service with technical expertise that usually is not the best in the administrations. With EPC, the public sector can be more relaxed about new technologies. It is true that for a good partnership, both partners have to be on the same level of understanding. Therefore, the public sector has to learn, test, and try to assure that partnership is a win-win situation. Many people compare the EPC (as a PPP) to a marriage. But it is also about finding a partner. To be confident in EPC, you have to start with smaller projects. Do not be afraid of some mistakes. The next will be better. EPC is also seen as a good investment of savings that otherwise could be lost in integral budgets. Many projects last only a few years, with EPC you have a long-lasting project. It means that you have to have good strategies and long-term action plans to achieve goals.
EnergaP is also very active in the field of education for pupils and teachers in primary and secondary schools. Ensuring all citizens are ‘energy aware’ is a key factor, and the role of education and information initiatives are crucial. What is your advice for actors in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency to take advantage of this period that we are living towards a more sustainable planet?
Awareness-raising activities and pilot projects are essential for moving forward. More people talk about the same idea more others join. It is like a snowball effect. We advise taking the opportunity, especially if your community is a bit shy or do not want to be a front-runner. Such moments in time are just to jump in and talk about it, make workshops, study visits, explain and explain and repeat many times. Pilot projects are another way to convince people because many of them understand the subject when they can see how it works and how the procedures went. It is the same for the public or private sector. Information activities for children are permanent long-term work but the most influential on behavioural changes of the society”.