Sustainable Energy Investments catalysed by EU Structural Funds
The added value of European Union’s financial programmes is made tangible through local and regional initiatives. Local and regional initiatives show the cohesion policy is both a catalyst for investment and a means for beneficiaries to raise their ambitions and take ownership of the European objectives, and specifically the ones of the Energy Union.
The European Union’s Cohesion policy supports common European goals and helps to overcome barriers to collaboration on these goals. This is significant in the field of energy transition, in achieving a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, alleviating energy poverty and ensuring security of energy supply. Over the years, ESI Funds have contributed to mobilising investments in the low carbon economy, which would be very difficult for many regions to achieve without this assistance. The Cohesion Policy is both a catalyst and an important communication vehicle for EU policy in general. The following local and regional examples highlight how beneficiaries take ownership of the European objectives and engage meaningfully in achieving common goals.
A review from northern Sweden reported that “small organisations, municipalities and actors with less institutional capacity have been given incentives to place themselves in bigger contexts, cooperate and take on the EU’s objectives. Municipalities and regions have been linked up with the European project, which has given the EU greater legitimacy at local and regional levels”. In Sweden, a national programme co-financed through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was launched in 2015 for the promotion of energy efficiency in SMEs in accordance with the Energy Efficiency Directive. Several initiatives emerged such as the “Coaches for Energy and Climate”, the project “Regional nodes for energy efficiency” and the “Networks for Energy Efficiency”. The use of structural funds for the transition to a low-carbon economy has led to a higher level of ambition among regional players in the field of energy and climate (find out more).
Another example where ESI funds have brought added value is to support the renovation of public buildings, such as a programme to renovate schools in Maribor, Slovenia, and one to retrofit elementary schools and social housing in Croatia. In the latter case, the energy agency (REGEA) noted that the use of EU’s structural funds enabled them to develop a common methodology and strict quality assurance in design and delivery. From the social perspective, these projects improve the indoor environment as well as reducing energy cost, with benefits for health, comfort and education.
In France, the ERDF has supported testing the first Smart Grid project in a french rural area, and EAFRD has been used to co-finance the pilots of the “Centrales Villageoises” initiative, involving rural citizens, communities, businesses to develop renewable and sustainable energy. This local governance model has started to be successfully replicated across the south-east of France.
In Italy the EnerSHIFT project improves the energy performance of social housing buildings (over 3.000 dwellings) by using ESI funds in a holistic financial plan that gathers private investments, national subsidies and H2020 resources, thus enhancing the impact and the multiplier effect (find out more).
In Spain, the Andalusian Energy Agency is using ERDF to co-finance the implementation of the regional electric mobility roadmap focusing on deploying charging points and mobilising local authorities in taking up the challenge (find out more).
-  Added value of the EU Cohesion Policy in Northern Sweden, Europaforum Norra Sverige, www.europaforum.nu
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