Representatives of 10 Polish municipalities, who won the competition for the best ideas for innovation in the area of energy efficiency and RES use, took part in a weeklong study visit in Norway. During the visit they had an opportunity to get familiar with the model energy-related projects and initiatives implemented by Norwegian municipalities and their partners.

Norway is known for being a frontrunner in the implementation of the sustainable development concept and for many years already have been implementing ambitious environmental policies, which include pursuit for maximum use of locally available renewable energy sources. Main energy sources currently used at the area of the country are water and wind. Up to 99% of electricity consumed comes from renewables. Present objectives are also very ambitious - like the EU Norway is aiming for the 40% reduction of GHG emissions by 2030. Moreover, the country is planning to give up oil and gas heating by 2020 and increase waste recycling rate to 75% (today most of the waste produced is incinerated). It is also actively supporting use of electric vehicles, inter alia by fast development of charging infrastructure and tax allowances. Participants of the study visit could see the results of these actions, e.g. by walking the streets of Oslo, where there were many cars driving or parking that had a registration number starting with "EL" (meaning that the car is fuelled with electricity).  There were also many charging stations available. Not only the national government, but also the local authorities, contribute to the achievement of national objectives. Municipalities develop and implement so called Climate and Energy Action Plans, where they concentrate on supporting further RES use, promoting public transport, promoting walking and cycling andreducing emissions from wastewater treatment and waste management.

That's the theory and what is the practice? After learning about the Norwegian climate & energy policy and the role of local self-governments in its implementation, the participants of the study tour started visiting selected installations, representing wide range of different environmentally friendly solutions. These included model solutions in the area of circular economy, energy use of waste, energy modernisation of buildings, use of RES and revitalisation of whole city districts.

Polish delegation visited inter alia two waste treatment plants - Lindum AS and Esval Miljøpark KF - where food waste and sewage sludge from wastewater treatment plant are used to produce environmentally friendly fertilizers and generate energy. Both plants use the thermal hydrolysis method (CAMBI technology) to improve and intensify the digestion process, and thus to obtain better final products. Lindum AS is also implementing a pilot project Food2Waste2Food, which consists in using CO2 from food waste treatment to support growth of new vegetables and fruits grown in special greenhouses, which are characterised by low carbon footprint. In this way another product of the waste treatment process is being used, which is in line with the principles of the circular economy.

Another interesting site visited was the "Power House Kjørbo" (Bærum municipality), which is an example of a very ambitious energy modernisation project implemented in an existing office building. As a result of the modernisation works the building was upgraded to the plus-energy building standard, which means that  during its whole life cycle it produces more energy than it consumes. In case of "Power House Kjørbo" energy is produced mostly by PV panels and heat pumps. There were implemented also other energy-related solutions rationalising its use, including: heat recovery from the server room, ensuring very good air tightness of walls and windows  and maximum use of daylight. The investment was financed by the building owner and the renting company (being alsohe author of the project concept) will pay back the costs from the savings achieved as a result of undertaken energy efficiency measures.

Different RES technologies were introduced during the visit at Akershus EnergiPark in Kjeller, which is both a local energy supplier and a research unit. In order to produce district heating, the company is using solar thermal collectors (in summer), wood chips, heat pumps, biogas and - as a backup source - bio-oil produced from waste from slaughter houses and fish processing. The company is also conducting research on the production and utilisation of hydrogen fuels.

The last important topic that was raised during the study visit was the rehabilitation of whole city districts. The Norwegians are planning and conducting rehabilitation works in a way that allows for minimising vehicle traffic within a city, e.g. by creating so called "micro-cities", where all services, cultural and social facilities and work places are accessible within a 15-minute walk or short bicycle ride. The participants of the study tour visited inter alia Drammen, which used to be a dishevelled industrial city but over the last couple of years turned into clean and comfortable place to live in, as well as the Fornebu district (Bærum municipality), where old airport area is being rebuilt into a modern, environmentally friendly residential district.

It is worth to highlight that these exchange of experience was not one-sided. Also Polish municipalities are implementing many interesting energy-related projects and have ambitious plans for the future, which they shared with their Norwegian hosts. After coming back from the study visit, Bydgoszcz, Bielsko-Biała, Lublin, Milanówek, Pałecznica, Płońsk, Raciechowice, Rumia, Sztum and Sopot will start implementation of their own ideas for innovation submitted for the competition. And these are truly interesting and include among others construction of EE and RES laboratories educating future installers, using district heating for providing cooling, complex utilisation of locally available renewables, implementation of an energy & water consumption monitoring system in all buildings within a municipality and improving energy efficiency in the waste management sector.

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Project "Polish-Norwegian cooperation platform for climate and energy conservation" is funded under the PL04 Programme of the Bilateral Cooperation Fund, which is financed from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (NMF) 2009-2014.