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ELENA facility supports cities and regions in developing sustainable solutions

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The European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) facility provides financial and technical assistance to help local and regional authorities attract funding for sustainable energy projects. The ELENA facility was launched by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) in December 2009 to support more than €1 billion of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in 2010. To do so it is providing €30 million in funding from the Intelligent Energy Europe (IEE) programme to help cities and regions implement viable investment projects in the areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable urban transport.

At present urban areas are responsible for 70 to 80% of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in Europe. For this reason, EU initiatives at the local level, such as the Covenant of Mayors, are encouraging towns and cities to take the lead in the fight against climate change.

Providing financial and technical assistance
While towns, cities and regions across Europe have developed ambitious energy and environmental plans, many – particularly medium to small localities – do not have the technical capacity to develop large investment programmes. ELENA is therefore playing an important role by offering these public entities specific support for the implementation of investment projects such as retrofitting of public and private buildings, sustainable building, energy-efficient district heating and cooling networks or environmentally-friendly transport.

“ELENA is a good example of how limited budget money can be leveraged with EIB loans to support EU policy objectives. The response has shown there is real interest from cities and regions in this kind of assistance,” says EIB President Philippe Maystadt.
European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has echoed this sentiment. "This is an example of how an idea presented during 2009’s Covenant of Mayors ceremony is now a reality and having an impact on the ground,” says the Commissioner. “ELENA is a chance for cities and regions to help themselves by implementing Sustainable Energy Action Plans that create jobs and, at the same time, help Europe as a whole meet its climate goals. After the strong response from cities and regions, we intend to double available ELENA funding to €30 million.”

The facility helps local and regional authorities from countries participating in the IEE programme with feasibility and market studies, and assists with the structuring of proposed investment programmes. Guidance is also given to develop business plans, carry out energy audits and meet stringent tendering procedures. To ensure the towns and cities receive the support they need; each investment project is assessed by the EIB’s engineers and economists. Overall, ELENA aims to improve the ‘bankability’ of the potential investment programmes, thereby helping them gain access to financing from the EIB or other banks.

First signatory of the ELENA facility
The Province of Barcelona was the first authority to obtain ELENA support. Through this agreement, the Province of Barcelona – a Supporting Structure of the Covenant of Mayors – will receive €2 million to finance the necessary technical assistance for the development of a €500 million investment programme. This programme is expected to lead to 87.5 MWp of photovoltaic (PV) installed capacity – or 1.5 million m² of PV surface – with a potential electrical capacity of 114 GWh per year.
Overall it is hoped that the programme will yield annual energy savings of 280 GWh. In addition, average CO2 emissions will be reduced by 150 000 to 200 000 tonnes a year. From a social point of view, 4 500 new jobs will be created as a result of the investment programme.
At the local level, the Province of Barcelona has become a pioneer in the field of climate change. Through its energy plan for 2002 to 2012, the Province hopes to reduce energy consumption by 17% and greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. The funding potentially created through the ELENA facility will help Barcelona execute the 56 activities outlined under the energy plan. These environmental measures cover the areas of sustainable transport, waste management, sustainable building and energy efficiency. To date, more than 100 towns and cities in the Province of Barcelona have signed-up to the Covenant of Mayors. Each signatory is committed to adopting the necessary environmental measures to help them fight climate change. For example, the town of Mataró has invested in a 13-km underground network of pipes to provide heat and hot water for 14 public buildings. This network uses renewable energy to provide heat. Through the help of the ELENA facility and the Covenant of Mayors, the Province of Barcelona can encourage the region’s other towns and cities to adopt similar environmental measures.

The vital financial and technical assistance provided by the ELENA facility will go a long way to ensuring local authorities can deliver their sustainable development programmes. By providing them with the tools to meet the challenges of climate change, the EU can help local actors develop their own grassroots solutions.