Prime Minister Janez Janša attended the inauguration of the country’s largest solar power plant in Prapretno near Hrastnik. On the former degraded site, 6,748 solar modules will generate more than three gigawatt hours of electricity per year. In the coming years, the plant will be expanded to a total capacity of 15 MW. In this way, a point of just energy transition is being created in Prapretno near Hrastnik.
With this investment, the company Holding Slovenske elektrarne is investing in the future security of electricity supply and is following EU guidelines to reduce its carbon footprint.
At the inauguration ceremony, the Prime Minister also delivered an address. He began by saying that in the last century, most of our electricity has come from carbon sources, and when we talk about that today, it has a pejorative connotation, but the development that we have today, including all that we have in solar panels, would not have happened without those carbon sources. “In the beginning, civilisation was not at a stage where it could harness solar energy or other sources that we now call sustainable and green,” he said, adding that he felt it was right that the EU had also come to the decision to set up a Just Transition Fund to pay tribute to places and regions that relied on coal mining and to the memory of the people who for decades, by mining coal, a carbon source, have provided the energy for electricity production and the development of civilisation. When people first started talking about the green transition at the beginning of this century, there was no such view,” said the Prime Minister. He recalled that there were hundreds of examples, not only in Slovenia but also in Europe, where once thriving landscapes and sub-regions that relied on coal mining and electricity generation from coal have turned not only into devastated landscapes that have not been well cared for, but also into demographically endangered areas through emigration. “We are not the only ones with this delay, but this must not be an excuse. Additional resources are finally available and much of what Zasavje has long been waiting for will come much faster if we are smart enough to use these resources properly,” said the Prime Minister.
He added that the green transition had been a sacred term lately. For the last two years, we have been talking about a smart and just transition. “A smart transition means not jumping into a pool where there is no water. We can decarbonise all electricity generation immediately, we can shut down all those electricity-producing capacities that are powered by carbon and we will be carbon-free, but what does that mean for civilisation? This means falling back into a state from which we will dig ourselves out by producing even more CO2 than we do today. After a period of such an idealistic view of the green transition, the EU is now in a mature phase, which is being accelerated by events in our eastern neighbourhood,” said the Prime Minister. He continued that the mature phase of looking at the green transition was accelerated by the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which suddenly – capacities were still being built despite earlier warnings and cautions, making Europe even more dependent on one source or one geographical direction – led to the search for new capacities to produce electricity and exploit own resources. “So this is something that has somehow been captured in the EU’s financial plans and long-term and medium-term projections, and the result is that there will be a very large amount of financial resources available, both in grants and loans, and we will have to be smart enough to take advantage of that,” said the Prime Minister.
Regarding solar energy, the Prime Minister said that although the sun is billions of units older than any beginnings of human civilisation, we have only been able to use solar energy for a few short years. “When the first solar collectors appeared, there were optimistic forecasts that in ten years all our energy would be generated by the sun because it is an unlimited source from the point of view of human life and that everything will change. But whoever has watched and read the history of electricity and inventions knows that even when the first light bulbs lit up the world’s metropolises and it was said that all would run on electricity in a few years, this didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. As experience teaches us, such forecasts should be careful and realistic,” said the Prime Minister.
“Our plans are to supply around half of all households with electricity from solar power in the next decade, which will take billions in investments,” stressed the Prime Minister. He added that it is important to know that solar energy is, of course, green, but solar collectors are black and cannot be installed just anywhere, as we do not want to turn Slovenia from a green country to black. “There are, however, a lot of devastated and unused areas, there are huge areas of roofs on public buildings that are unused, there’s plenty of such surfaces especially in the locations with the most hours of sunlight, so the opportunities are great. If we want to actually fulfil our great ambitions, it will be necessary to realise at least some of these forecasts regarding the breakthrough in electricity storage in the coming years,” said the Prime Minister, adding that we need to enter the post-lithium period. “The lithium supplies of the whole planet are not sufficient to make enough batteries for electric cars if we want to switch to fully electric transport,” he added, noting that there is some promising research, but much depends on how we achieve technological breakthroughs and how we will then be able to put this into practice. “The history of the use of electricity teaches us that many patents approved a hundred years ago are only now being put into commercial use,” said the Prime Minister. “If we operate with the elements of the formula that are known, we still have great untapped opportunities for the generation and use of electricity in Slovenia, but we need significant investments. Considering that the funds will be available and the current trend of economic growth, this is possible,” the Prime Minister said.
“On 24 February, the world changed. The awareness of this is not yet sufficient. The resources we have at home are ten times more valuable in this changed world than before,” said the Prime Minister, adding that regardless of the fact that Slovenia is part of the common European energy market and regardless of the fact that electricity is charged based on a formula that is European and is now inappropriate and changing, it is necessary to take into account situations when this does not work and when only electricity that can be generated at home or as close as possible can be used. “This is why the construction of small hydropower plants and small solar power plants is not only something that needs to be promoted from the point of view of the environment and the green transition, but also from the security point of view. A single large-scale cyber attack on our network can cause outages lasting for days, weeks or months. Just imagine a week of life without electricity in hospitals or public institutions. Whatever we build and generates electricity and is available is a huge added value, and we only realise it when we need it,” the Prime Minister said.
At the end of his address, he thanked all those who are working towards achieving this and all those who participated in the construction of this solar power plant. “In order to achieve the goals written in our programmes, it would be necessary to build an ever-larger solar power plant practically every month, so we still have a lot of work to do,” concluded Prime Minister Janez Janša.
The event was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and the Prime Minister took a tour of the the solar power plant accompanied by the Mayor of Hrastnik and the HSE management.