Vivian Grisogono


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Electricity is a precious and (in)valuable resource.
During the Homeland War (1991-95) the Serb-led Yugoslav Army blew up part of the Peruča dam on 23rd January 1993. As the dam forms the main hydroelectric power source for Split and its environs, the disruption was disastrous. For several months electricity was limited to an hour or two in the middle of the night. Businesses and normal life alike were hard hit: no computers, no light, no air conditioning, no heating, no TV, no radio. The hospitals, full of war victims from Croatia and Bosnia, struggled to keep going using generators. The elderly, frail and disabled suffered most. Trying to cross Split’s main highways in the absence of traffic lights was dicing with injury or death, even for the fittest. Nikola Tesla, who contributed so much to the discovery and development of electricity, would certainly have been appalled at the crisis created by wanton mindless destruction in his native land. The agonies continued even after the occupiers withdrew, as they left the dam mined, risking an explosion which would have flooded a massive area. Happily, with international help, especially from British experts, the danger was averted and normality restored.

Electricity: appreciation
The difficulties of that time were quickly banished from the mind. In the developed world, we take electricity for granted, despite the evidence that supplying our ever-increasing needs is difficult, costly and in many cases damaging to our planet. Renewable natural sources for energy are obviously the way ahead. Coastal Croatia is the ideal place for using solar power. Voltaic cells are gradually coming into use. No doubt in a few years’ time people everywhere will be much more attuned to their environment, and will use energy-saving measures and natural energy sources a a matter of course.

Supplying electricity
Meanwhile, electricity suppliers have to work out how to meet the demand, and try not to cost the earth. In Croatia the national electricity network is supplied by a firm called Hrvatska elektroprivreda (HEP for short) and distributed by a subsidiary called HEP ODS (Operator distribuicijskog sustava). There are various tariffs to choose from, depending on your needs. You can choose to be supplied by HEP, as a “tariff customer” (tarifni kupac), or you can choose an independent supplier, with access to the public electrical network as an “eligible customer” (povlasteni kupac). Commercial users can choose between high, medium or low voltage networks, whereas residential customers have the low voltage option only. Domestic electricity is charged for at a lower rate than in houses or apartments which are registered for renting out as a business.

Getting electricity
 If you buy a property and need to instal electricity, you need expert advice. You and the expert first need to work out roughly what your requirements will be, so you need a clear idea of how much electricity the installations you are planning (such as central heating or air conditioning) might use on average. You have to specify whether you require single-phase or three-phase power, and how many kilowatts. Each system comes with limiters, which cut off your power if you exceed your set limit at any time, so it’s important to get it right from the outset. If your property is a new-build or had no electricity before, you will need to pay for the connexion to the nearest pylon or source. In some places you can pay to have the cables buried underground, to avoid having unsightly wires running into your property. Sometimes HEP ODS encourages this by supplying the cables free of charge in return for you covering the cost of providing the channel.
You also have to choose the type of tariff model you want, which dictates the kind of meter you have to use. Most households use the white model, which has a multi-tariff meter and two charging phases, with a lower rate applying overnight (2200 - 0800 in summer, 2100 - 0700 in winter). For rental properties, it can be an advantage to use the pre-paid orange tariff model, which has a special meter to take payment by a card. You can change your requirements at any time, and application forms can be downloaded from the HEP ODS website. Tariff model changes are free of charge if done no more than once a year, although you may have to pay for a new meter if the old one isn’t compatible.  
If you are building a new property or doing a renovation, your electrical needs have to be included in the project plans, which are submitted to the local electricity office for approval prior to connexion.
Once all the decisions have been made and approved, the electricity board will issue you with a contract to sign, and then do the connexion, usually very quickly afterwards.

Electricity can be dangerous. If you buy a property with an existing electrical system , you need to make sure that all bills have been paid , and have the system checked for any defects. Nowadays all major electrical work has to be done by recognized installers, and on completion you should be issued with a certificate confirming that the installation complies with existing laws. As wiring in Croatian houses is routinely chased into the walls, it’s useful to obtain a photographic record of where the wires are, to avoid driving picture nails into them, or in case of future problems. In Dalmatia the electricity supply can be somewhat erratic due to bad weather, especially electrical storms, so you may also consider installing a lightning conductor, putting a surge protector in with the main fuse-switches, and safeguarding sensitive equipment like computers with a UPS (pictured right).

Paying the bills
Once electricity has been installed, your meter is read twice a year, usually in March and September, and a bill follows. If you don’t use your property permanently, you can take your own reading and send or take it to your local electricity office to be incorporated into your bill. In the normal way, the electricity office issues an estimate of your usage over the year, broken down month by month. This forms the basis for paying instalments in advance of you using the electricity. Many people find this confusing, and not a little irritating. However, in general the system works fairly, and helps to prevent a situation (all too common in the UK) where people fail to pay their bills and leave the supplier severely out of pocket. Much of this is explained on the HEP ODS website under FAQ .
After each six-month period, your bill is finalized on the basis of your actual usage, so you may have to pay for the shortfall if your instalments were underestimated, or you may receive a refund or credit if they were overestimated. You can pay your bill at any post office or bank, although you may have to pay a small charge for the service. Having paid your bill, it’s wise to keep the receipt and paperwork safely, just in case you ever need proof.
What your bill says
Details of the bills vary according to the tariff model. Below is a typical bill from the white tariff model. All bills are headed with HEP ODS’s OIB (identity number), and the address and bank details of the local office which is responsible for your electricity supply and bills.

Top right:             Mjesto izdavanja : place of issue
Datum dospijeća : date due
Izdavanje slijedećeg računa : date of next bill
R-1 (denotes: official bill for tax & business purposes)
Podaci o kupcu : customer details
Šifra kupca : customer number
Kupac : customer
Ulica & broj : address (street & number)
Mjesto : place (town, village)
Porezni broj : tax number (ID number / JMBG or more recently OIB for Croatian nationals)
OIB: the identity number introduced for all individuals and businesses in January 2009 - foreigners too need this for bill-paying and bank accounts
Račun br: Invoice number....... razdoblje: for the period.....
objašnjenje računa: explanation of the bill (the arrow points to over the page)

Opis: account
Električna energija viša dnevna tarifna stavka: electrical energy, higher rate
Električna energija niža dnevna tarifna stavka: electrical energy, lower rate
Naknada za mjernu i opskrbnu uslugu: charge for meter-reading and service supply
Iznos za električnu energiju: amount charged for electrical energy
Potpora građanima i kućanstvima (više od 3000 kWh): support for individuals and households (over 3000 KW)
Naknada za poticanje proizvodnje iz obnovljivih izvora: charge for promoting renewable energy sources

Porezna osnovica: pre-tax total
Kamata: interest
B. Zbroj izdanih rata za obračunsko razdoblje: amount paid in instalments for the account period....
D. Dugovanje na dan obračuna: Amount due on the billing date
Ukupno za platiti: total to be paid (C + D)
(The final amount may be a minus figure if you have overpaid through your instalments).

On the reverse side of the bill is a breakdown of your usage, the instalments paid, and the way the electricity supplier makes the charge for the electricity you have used. Below those three sections is a final paragraph stating what your next monthly instalments have been calculated as. You can appeal against your bill within 15 days of receiving it, in writing, and should enclose a reading from your meter. Your meter number, which you should always quote when dealing with the electricity board, is given in the first explanatory section, under “broj brojila”.
© Vivian Grisogono 2010, updated 2014