Chris Noonan talks about his experience working in Zagreb with REGEA

I have been working with Tipperary Energy Agency for almost five years now. One of the aspects I’ve enjoyed the most is getting to travel abroad and work with energy agencies from around Europe.

Tipperary Energy Agency and REGEA (an energy agency based in Zagreb, and serving north-west Croatia) began discussing the idea of ‘swapping’ engineers, where Tipperary Energy Agency would send an engineer to go work in Zagreb with REGEA for a period, and REGEA would send an engineer to Tipperary Energy Agency . The purpose was for each engineer to get an idea of how the other energy agency operated and bring back some lessons to their own energy agency when their time abroad ended. When the opportunity was presented to me, I jumped at the chance.

REGEA were really helpful in getting me setup in Zagreb, I moved in November 2019 and began working with them. Because of the language barrier, most of the projects I worked with REGEA on were European based ones. The project I spent the most time on was called REPLACE. As is the case with most European projects, it is due to last three years, and was only beginning when I arrived at REGEA. The purpose of the project was to encourage local homeowners and small business owners to replace their old inefficient heating and cooling equipment. The project involved several other European energy agencies, each of whom would run a campaign in their region to encourage building owners to retrofit. Literature reviews would be conducted to help understand the behavioral aspects of the projects, different tools would be developed so that building owners could assess the potential savings from upgrading, and events would be ran with plumbers and contractors to help educate them on the technical aspects of energy saving retrofits. I spent much of my time on the behavioral part of the project, researching similar projects to figure out the drivers and barriers to heating and cooling equipment upgrades.

I also spent some time learning about REGEA’s work in public lighting energy service contracting, whereby REGEA will design a public lighting LED retrofit, as well as organizing innovative financing. I also learned about their work with biogas generation from wastewater treatment. I was looking forward to spending more time in these areas, but unfortunately as COVID-19 worsened, I had to cut my time at REAGEA short, and I returned home to Ireland in mid-March.

The biggest lesson I learned at REGEA was how important it is to quantify and allocate risk. At the beginning of projects, a lot of time is spent trying to forecast potential risks to the project, and ensuring that any potential risks are allocated appropriately, whether it be on the contractor, the client, the engineer, etc. I also learned a lot about how REGEA work to develop the private sector they work alongside. They have spent years aiding the growth of the energy industry in Croatia, and it was interesting to hear the lessons they have learned along the way.