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News blog3 May 2023

Successful sustainable measures through innovative financing

Successful sustainable measures through innovative financing

Local energy efficiency and sustainability policies are mostly defined by the EU legal framework[1], how it is interpreted by cities and regions and how they will turn it into regional or local measures. Cities and regions across Europe are key in leading and achieving EU climate targets. The result is that more often than not, they will implement more ambitious measures than they are required to. At the municipal level, voluntary signatories of the Covenant of Mayors (CoM) need to design their own policy framework to achieve the sustainability and climate targets, called Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs)[2].

Cities and regions can be left with doubts when dealing with EU directives and how to translate them at local levels and find financing to implement the measures. The EU-funded project PROSPECT focuses on how to finance the energy transition, with a peer to peer learning programme and study visits for cities and regions. How best to learn how to proceed than by hearing what peers do and what they learnt from it? PROSPECT matches mentors and mentees in a programme started in June 2017, and closing this year.

PROSPECT aims at encouraging the exchange of knowledge and experience on innovative financing schemes used to implement SECAPs and sustainable measures.

PROSPECT in figures

By innovative financing schemes, PROSPECT refers to non-traditional ways of raising funds and facilitating sustainable energy and climate investments by mixing different sources (own fund, public and private funds) or engaging different partners (e.g. citizens, private sector) outside of established financial institutions (e.g. banks). These innovative financing schemes include: energy performance contractingthird party financingrevolving fundssoft loansgreen bondsguarantee funds, and citizen finance, such as cooperatives and crowdfunding.

PROSPECT’s added value comes from the free learning programme not being limited to a capacity building process but following the project steps of energy efficiency finance from the first stages of its development to monitoring its sustainable operation.

How does it work concretely?

The project focuses on 5 thematic learning modules: public buildings and facilities, private buildings, transport, public lighting and cross sectoral (interventions falling under 2 or more thematic areas, e.g. climate change adaptation; local electricity production and local heat/cold production).

After performing “needs assessment and gaps identifications” with public bodies to learn and match the needs with available best practices, PROSPECT selected public authorities and agencies and the roles of mentors and mentees were assigned. The partnerships that the project managed to build have proven effective to stimulate a mutual understanding of each other’s issues, situations and challenges with the aim of exploring new ideas, options and solutions, proven in the Almada and Heerlen case.

Paving the way towards a low carbon community in Almada: the role of Almada Less Carbon Climate Fund, in Portugal

A great example to showcase the work of PROSPECT, especially the benefits for beneficiaries of the mentor / mentee concept are Almada (Portugal, mentor) and Heerlen Municipality (The Netherlands, mentee).

AGENEAL, the Local Energy Management Agency of Almada and the Municipality of Heerlen were among the first to benefit from PROSPECT, on public buildings.

Almada presented its Less Carbon Climate Fund[3][4][5], a programme developing an internal financing scheme to support investment on Energy Efficiency and Renewables.

Almada’s Local Strategy for Climate Change contains measures targeted at reducing the energy consumption of buildings and the transport sector and supported by the fund since 2009, with a total investment of more than 1.9 M€ and 3,000 MWh of yearly energy bill savings, such as energy certification of municipal buildings, 100% LED traffic lights, solar hot water in 100% municipal sports facilities, etc.

After seven years of successful operation, the fund became a revolving fund: the cost savings resulting from implemented energy efficiency measures are returned directly to the Fund, ensuring leverage of the fund and boosting further investments in a clean energy transition. The innovation is the shared benefits approach assuming different sharing schemes between the fund and the client department based on the project characteristics. The Fund is a totally internal and voluntary scheme which can make it easy to replicate in every public or private institution.

Almada inspired Heerlen and provided support on specific needs and challenges such as: minimum budget needed to start the fund, the way the refund is proscribed and action plans describing the synergy with the municipality and others.

Heerlen visited AGENEAL to learn about the fund and projects realized:

  • school where Photovoltaics (UPP), solar thermal and LED interior lighting were installed with an EPC model and crowdfunding from the school community in addition of own funds,
  • football club where Photovoltaic (Microgeneration), solar thermal (Forced Circulation) and LED interior lighting were set with subsidy from the Barreiro City Council with own funds,
  • a pilot experience in social housing: Hybrid solar/PV panels, exterior insulation, efficient windows, intelligent lighting and monitoring.

Can all this be transferred to Heerlen?

Heerlen commended the good existing technical conditions, financial and legislative framework and the strong communication among local stakeholders as good signs for transferability. What inspired Heerlen was going beyond having a revolving fund, with a participatory way of working and bringing decision-makers to the process from the start. However, Heerlen saw parameters like the time needed for implementation and staff availability at Heerlen as possible decelerating factors.

PROSPECT worked its magic and allowed mutual benefits: Almada also learned from Heerlen, to push further for private involvement, bundle projects and make them bankable, increase the investment size limits and add visibility and accountability to the projects. Applications for the peer-to-peer learning programme are now closed. However, all material developed is available, including handbooks for all modules and good practicesSubscribe to stay updated about PROSPECT.

PROSPECT received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 752126.

[1] For what concerns the EU legal framework, the EU directives where sustainability, energy efficiency and renewable energy are part of the “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package.






Publication date
3 May 2023