Rijeka Knowledge Brokerage: Decarbonizing District Heating

Blogpost by Giovanni Caiati, researcher at K&I

As one of the mentors of the Rijeka team, I travelled to Rijeka from May 6 to May 8 2024, to attend our knowledge brokerage workshop. The team – composed of Jessica, Nicole and Alexander – was there, ready to present and discuss the first results of their Knowledge Brokerage Initiative. 

The days before the workshop, the team members were very busy preparing their input for the workshop. The team developed some policy-makers-friendly info-sheets on how SSH knowledge might support the decarbonisation of city-level district heating, as Rijeka is in the middle of a strategic process of modernising and decarbonising its district heating network. 

Before the workshop, we had only an overall understanding of the Rijeka DH program. However, during the workshop, we had the opportunity to dive much more into the Rijeka DH case. Nereo Milin and Tajana Jukić Neznanović from Rijeka city, together with Vatroslav  Jukić from the local energy company, ENERGO, accompanied us through on-site visits and gave us a passionate tale of their work into the intricacies of the process of renewing the DH network.

We discovered that the DH modernisation process was guided by a passionate leadership endowed with a strategic vision, that, so far, managed several challenges pragmatically, such challenges ranging from the rocky ground of Rijeka to legal and administrative constraints, from the lack of awareness of citizens about DH to barriers related to national policies and the international market. 

The workshop was attended by representatives of other cities engaged with DH decarbonisation: Lezkovac (Serbia), Čačak (Serbia), Assen (The Netherlands), Tuzla (Bosnia & Herzegovina), and Munich (Germany). Moreover, Marko Cavar, Head of the energy department in REGEA (Croatia) engaged in an online conversation with Rosie Robison and Chris Foulds, scientific coordinators of the SSH centre project. Together with the team, mentors, and other members of the consortium attending the initiative, several experiences and insights were effectively exchanged during the meeting. 

Our KB team pointed out the attention to the relevance of SSH, leveraging on examples from other cases of DH renovation and evidence from the literature. Among other things, we discussed SSH methods that might support the DH decarbonisation processes, options of citizens’ political or economic participation in DH modernisation, and locality as a key variable in DH modernisation as technological change might become a practice of territory-making. 

While writing this post blog I’m reliving the beautiful days spent in Rijeka and I look forward to reading the three info sheets that the team is preparing for brokering SSH methods, participatory governance approaches, and insights on locality-making into the DH decarbonisation process of Rijeka. 

Giovanni Caiati is researcher working at the Knowledge & Innovation

This blog post is part of a series of reflections about our training events held in different European cities.