In Šabac, the center of the Mačva district in Western Serbia, 10,000 out of 21,000 households still use solid fuels - coal and wood for heating. Clouds of smoke from their chimneys are among the main sources of air pollution during the heating season. They also directly contribute to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, heating up the planet, and exacerbating climate change. The situation is similar throughout Serbia, where more than half of households use solid fuels for heating.
To motivate as many citizens as possible to connect to the district heating system, the public utility company (PUC) "Toplana-Šabac" decided not to charge them for the costs of connecting to the system. They also found a way to save both citizens’ money for bills and the amount of energy used for heating.
In Šabac, unlike most cities in Serbia, the heating tariff is based on consumption, and not on the size of heated areas. Therefore, citizens are motivated to consume less thermal energy. One of them is Natalija Tubić, who says that her heating bill is now four times lower.
- We received a bill of 2,000 dinars. For example, in November last year, it was around 8,800 dinars. If you’re not home, you switch the heating off, so you consume less, you pay less, your bills are lower. Earlier, with the non-stop heating, it was too warm. You had to open the windows, and then the heat went to waste. – explains Natalija.
What made these saving possible is that, in parallel with introducing payment per consumption, "Toplana-Šabac", supported the citizens to improve the thermal insulation of buildings with a subsidy of 50 per cent. Thanks to this initiative energy efficiency was increased in 40 residential buildings.
- For instance, in a building insulated with 10cm of wool or Styrofoam, we’ll save between 150 and 500 euro per apartment during the heating season, depending on the square footage of the apartment. Moreover, we reduced the CO2 emissions by two or three times for that building. - said Slobodan Jerotić, director of PUC "Toplana-Šabac".
District heating in Šabac operates thanks to a smart system - SCADA, which PUC has been using since 2019. SCADA is hardware and software installed in heating substations - the place of transfer of thermal energy from the distribution grid to the citizens. Currently, 140 heating substations are connected to this remote monitoring system, and the connection of additional 130 is in progress.
- We save energy by distributing only the exact amount of heat that is necessary. Our software allows us to remotely monitor and verify temperature-related complaints, so we can react before a halt in heating supply occurs. - explains Miloš Marinković from the Department of Thermal Energy Distribution of the PUC.
Measurements in substations provide information on whether the buildings receive enough energy, how the connection of the new facility will affect the network, as well as on possible breakdowns. The SCADA system also allows all this data to be analysed. Thus, the PUC established that, on average, 30 breakdowns were recorded on the network annually due to the rapid heating of the system.
Last year, PUC started the system more slowly. Until December, no malfunctions were recorded. The system has thus proven to be cost-effective, especially bearing in mind that the repair of one breakdown can cost 10,000 euros.
To save energy, in addition to installing a smart system of district heating and insulation of buildings, the City of Šabac is also introducing renewable energy sources. In collaboration with the first Energy Cooperative in Serbia, established by the citizens’ association “Sunny Rooftops of Šabac”, a small photovoltaic plant of 3KW was installed on the roof of the thermal power plant.
The next step is a launch of a crowdfunding campaign to expand the photovoltaic plant’s capacity by 17 kilowatts. “Green” energy is also generated in a small boiler that currently uses biomass, instead of fuel oil it previously used. The objective for the future is set high.
- The ultimate goal of our energy policy is to become completely energy independent from fossil fuels by 2050 - announces Slobodan Jerotić.
By implementing this plan, CO2 emissions in Šabac will be reduced to a minimum, thus making the whole city smarter and more efficient in the process of adapting to climate change and energy-related challenges.
„Establishment of the SCADA System for Oversight and Management of Heat Distribution Substations at the District Heating System of the City of Šabac“ has been awarded as one of 11 best innovative and climate-smart solutions within the “Climate Smart Urban Development Challenge” initiative, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It is estimated that this initiative will contribute to reduction of CO2 emissions by 31,660 tons, which is equal to the emissions of about 6,200 passenger vehicles in motion during one year.