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National Geographic about the Energy Programme in Romania

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National Geographic recently interviewed our own Programme Director of the Energy Programme in Romania, Inger Elisabeth Strand Karni, about the impact of the programmes and the effects of renewable energy on a community. This interview was published on 5 August 2021 in National Geographic. Read it here, or see the english translation below. 

Interview with the Programme Director of the Energy Programme in Romania

First of all, please briefly describe the funding programs managed by Innovation Norway Romania.


Innovation Norway is the Norwegian Government's most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry. We are also the Government’s official trade representative abroad. As a result of this, Innovation Norway has been given distinct roles under the EEA and Norway Grants.

The EEA and Norway Grants are funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. The Grants have two goals – to contribute to a more equal Europe, both socially and economically – and to strengthen the relations between Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and the 15 beneficiary countries in Europe.

In Romania, Innovation Norway has been present since 2007, acting as Fund Operator for several EEA and Norway Grants programmes, that represent the contribution of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein (the Donor countries) to reduce economic and social disparities and to strengthening bilateral relations with EU (European Union) countries in Central and Southern Europe. The EEA and Norway Grants programmes support development projects in priority areas such as environment and climate change, business development, renewable energy, health, childcare, social dialogue, and civil society.

The objectives of the EEA and Norway Grants​ are:

  • Contributing to reducing economic and social ​disparities in the European Economic Area​
  • Strengthening relations between Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and the beneficiary countries​
  • 2014-2021: 2.8 billion EUR to programmes ​in 15 countries

Who can benefit from these funds?


In Romania Innovation Norway is the Fund Operator for two programmes: SMEs Growth Romania and Energy Programme in Romania.

SMEs Growth Romania seeks to stimulate and develop long-term business cooperation between the Donor States and Romania based on business development and innovation. The aim is to allocate 75 percent of the funding to small and medium size enterprises. We support the following activities:

- Innovative technologies, processes and services

- Sustainable business development

- Greening of existing businesses and processes

- Development and implementation of innovative products and services

Read more information about the SMEs Growth Programme here.

Energy Programme in Romania aims to contribute to a less carbon intensive energy in Romania and to increased security of supply. Programme outcomes:

- Outcome 1 - Increased Renewable Energy production

- Outcome 2 - Reduced CO2 emissions in all sectors (Energy Efficiency)

- Outcome 3 - Increased knowledge on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy security in all sectors of society

- Outcome 4 - Enhanced research and development capacity on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy security

- Outcome 5 - Increased access to electricity for households in areas where connection to the electricity network is not feasible

- Bilateral Outcome - Enhanced collaboration between Beneficiary and Donor States entities involved in the programme

The eligible Applicants in the Energy Programme are any entity, public or private, commercial, or non-commercial and non-governmental organisations, established as a legal person in Romania.

Read more about the Energy Programme in Romania here.

Now, let’s move on to The Energy Programme. Why do we need such a programme? What is the purpose of the program, and which are its focus areas?


The Energy Programme in Romania consists of five focus areas. The expected long term programme impact is less carbon intensive energy and increased security of supply in Romania. The programme will also enable the establishment of new businesses and jobs in energy field, which will lead to positive social benefits for local communities.​

The energy sector is a strong contributor to a country's social and economic development, with a strong influence on the economy, quality of life and the environment.

The goal of the Energy Programme in Romania is to make the energy sector become cleaner, more economically robust and more technologically advanced. Good governance in the energy sector and reduction of energy poverty are also key goals. The expected long term programme impact is less carbon intensive energy and increased security of supply in Romania.

To achieve this, the Energy Programme in Romania supports a wide array of activities within the field of energy, including, but not limited to:

- Energy efficiency in production, distribution and/or end use

- Renewable energy production

- Recovery of energy from waste or hazardous waste

- Energy security

- Renewable energy policies in all relevant sectors

These activities can happen within the following areas:

- Hydropower

- Geothermal

- Electrification of non-electrified households

- Biomass/Biogas -Waste to Energy

- Wind and solar

- Energy Efficiency

- Research, Development, and Innovation (R&D) in the energy sector

What impact will The Energy Programme have on local jobs?


The projects may contribute to the outcome indicator: number of jobs created.

The social impact is positive and significant. In the execution phase of such projects, new local jobs will be created. During the operation phase, new jobs will be created, and new persons will be trained.

A good example is our project completed under Energy Programme in Romania.

In April 2020, right after the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe hard and the restrictions in Romania tightened, the Romanian furniture company SIMEX started to install the agreed solar panels to have renewable energy and electricity for their furniture production. This was done with funding from the Romanian Energy programme under the EEA and Norway Grants.

These solar panels are estimated to reduce CO2 emissions with 364 tons CO2 equivalents per year from SIMEX’s regular furniture production. In addition, the energy produced from these solar panels (photovoltaic panels) are estimated to be 520 MWh (Megawatt hour) per year. The replacement of previous fossil fuels in production with a renewable energy source has also inspired and set an example to other companies in the region.

At the same time, the installing of the solar panels from April 2020 through November 2020, the company hired three Romanian workers who would otherwise be unemployed.

The energy transition from coal to green energy is a delicate issue in Romania. How has the attitude of Romanians changed since they have these funds at their disposal?

Inger: The Overall objective​ of the Energy Programme in Romania is decarbonisation/CO2-emissions​. Programmes targeting greenhouse gas reductions and/or avoidance through energy efficiency measures shall deliver considerable reductions. The programme will also enable the establishment of new businesses and jobs in energy field, which will lead to positive social benefits for local communities.

The implementation of the Energy Programme will have a strong and positive social impact, long and short term, in the context of current European decarbonisation policies, which aim to reduce the share of energy produced from the use of fossil fuels and especially from wood and use the available renewable resources.

Recently, there has been increased interest from companies as well as from local, regional, and central public authorities for the Energy Programme in Romania.

A good example could be Energy Efficiency Call ‘'Increased energy efficiency in place" where it was a great interest, 45 applications received.

A good example of Call trying to solve the problem of electrification for poor communities in Romania is Electrification of households, which has recently closed, and the applicants are local public entities commune city halls and county councils. The outcome of the projects is Electrification of households in areas where connection to the electricity network is not economically feasible. These Calls provide support for projects that will electrify unelectrified households and communities where connection to the grid is not economically feasible, or where the targeted households cannot afford the connection fee.

There are 41 projects in total under the implementation phase (20 projects under Renewable Energy and 21 projects under Energy Efficiency), out of which 1 project has been successfully completed under Call 3 - Other Renewable Energy Source and we currently have many new applications under evaluation for hydropower area and electrification of household.

Also, a new Call for Proposals is launched under the Energy Programme in Romania - Research and Development, which aims enhanced research and development capacity on renewable energy (renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy security) including the development of technologies/ solutions/ services.

It is worth mentioning that we aim to increased knowledge on renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy security. In this regard we will promote a Call having as main target training for people and enhanced capacity and skills related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy security.

In conclusion, we could say that the attitude of Romanians changed positively since they have these funds at their disposal, and we are expecting for our next Calls many good project applications. The expected output of the projects is increased support to renewable energy, energy efficiency and, energy security research and development provided.

Overall, the Energy Programme has enabled many Promoters (beneficiaries of funds) to understand renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as their benefits for their organisations and for the environment. We hope that there will be several replication projects implemented in the future, inspired from the currently financed (under implementation) projects.

Is there a link between your Energy Programme and Green Deal?

Inger: The implementation of projects under Energy Programme in Romania brings value to the society (public and private sector)​ and it is in line and complementary with the development at the European level “European Green Deal”. Energy Programme contributes to decarbonising the Energy sector and more energy efficiency​ and support investments in environmentally friendly technologies.

Which are the first three success stories about projects dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency in Romania that first come to your mind?

Inger: There are many good examples to give, but we could highlight a few examples from different areas and different types of applicants.

Green light – public lighting system with green energy in Cluj – Napoca

The city is now increasing energy efficiency in the lighting network infrastructure and reducing carbon emissions with funding from the Norway Grants. This project will reduce electricity costs and consumption, increase energy performance, efficiency of urban mobility and the quality of public services.

With use of LED (Light Emitting Diode) technology, the project allows Cluj – Napoca to transform its lighting sources into a smart solution by combining efficient electricity consumption management and an integrated lighting sources via internet into an adaptive smart control of the lighting level. Adopting innovative technologies, such as LED technology for public lighting system, provides a viable solution to reduce the electricity consumption for the next 20 years.

Green energy for public buildings implemented by Ghiroda Commune, Timisoara County

With funding from the Energy Programme in Romania, as part of the EEA and Norway Grants, the municipality of Ghiroda is installing photovoltaic renewable energy sources on eight of its public buildings. The use of solar energy will reduce emissions and lower the pollution levels.

Western Norway Research Institute and Politehnica University of Timisoara are both partners in the project. Western Norway Research Institute (Vestlandsforskning) will ensure that the project contribute directly to CO2 emission reductions and to electric energy production from renewable sources of energy, through the implementation of solar energy.

Public education with energy efficiency

The city of Lumina, in Constanta, Romania, is implementing a project to optimise energy efficiency in schools, involving the community and raising awareness about the importance of protecting the environment.

At least 932 schoolchildren will benefit directly from the project and three public schools and one Communitary Center will be comprehensive refurbishment, improve energy efficiency and undergo structural modernisation works.

By actively including all school population, the project is set to offer insights about ways to lower a building’s energy footprint through effectively managing building operations, raising public awareness in the entire Metropolitan Constanta area.

Energy efficiency in industry implemented by Azomures SA

The projects enhance energy efficiency in the motor processes in Azomures as part of the Energy and Climate Change Action Plan. The project has been important for Azomures in the competition for products and a progressive increase in the cost of utilities.

The project installs variable speed drives on five high energy intensive motors within the chemical fertilizer production facilities of Azomures S.A. to reduce the energy consumption, reduce the operational costs with the energy, decrease of CO2 emissions and increased security of supply (CO2 equivalent emission reduction per year: 2,134 tons).

Geothermal welcome at the Oradea Expres Hotel

Oradea Expres Hotel in Romanian is cooperating with the Icelandic partner, Navigo, in a project that uses local, geothermal resources to increase energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and attract tourists to Bors, Romania.

The project will support Oradea Expres Hotel to use local, geothermal resources to increase energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and attract visitors.

With expertise from the Icelandic partner, Navigo, the project aims to increase the general efficiency of the company, along with promoting clean energy production, to improve the eco-friendly approach and decrease low carbon emissions.

The project will replace the current gas-based heating system with a new innovative geothermal solution. The installation will have an installed capacity equivalent with 0.250 MW (Mega Watt), an annual estimated production of 721.36 MWh and an estimated 220.736 tonnes of CO2/year greenhouse gas impact reduction.

Production of renewable energy with photovoltaic panels at Don Orione Beneficence Charity Society (NGO (Non Government Organization))

This Non-Governmental Organisation aims through this project to cover part of its electricity consumption by using renewable energy within an integrated energy production system with photovoltaic conversion. The applicant intends to use high-performance solar panels, reaching one of the Programme’s goals, namely less carbon intensive energy and increased security of supply.

The project promoter will install photovoltaic panels in two distinct locations: in Oradea city, on Don Orione High-school and in Zece Hotare Village, Suncuius Commune, Bihor County, a rural area, where the NGO has built an Observer Watch Tower.

Please add any other details you want about the funding programs managed by Innovation Norway Romania and also a conclusion.

Inger: I would like to mention the new green opportunities for the next period. The programmes offers a variety of Green Opportunities for financing.

Partnerships between entities in the donor countries, on the one side, and entities in the beneficiary countries, on the other side, are an important part of the EEA and Norway Grants programmes. The EEA Grants are funded by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein so entities from these countries can be partners in the project. The Norway Grants is funded by Norway and open only for Norwegian entities as partners.

The Energy Programme in Romania

The project is supported by Norway through the Norway Grants. See more under the Energy Programme in Romania.

Follow the EEA and Norway Grants by Innovation Norway on Facebook or on LinkedIn to stay updated.

Inger Elisabeth Strand Karni
Phone: +4795480329
Email: [email protected]

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