Sustainable energy means business in the Port of Amsterdam

Posted by ManagEnergy on 16/09/14

Profitability and sustainability go hand in hand with the Amsterdam Investment Fund; a network of financing tools that is propelling the city towards energy transition.

Four years ago, Amsterdam chose to sell its shares in NUON, a former local utility company. Its next move would change the future of the city and produce a paradigm-shifting contribution to European sustainability efforts. The city dedicated €75 million of the NUON sale earnings to perpetuating a cycle of lowering CO2 and increasing energy efficiency. To do so it devised a powerful financing instrument – the Amsterdam Investment Fund (AIF).

The Amsterdam Energy Strategy

The realities of climate change and resource depletion are an immediate concern for the Netherlands. The country is at high risk from floods resulting from global warming, and natural gas resources are expected to expire in approximately ten years. The Netherlands is facing these challenges head-on with a plan that places the capital at the centre of rapid energy transition for the whole country. The Amsterdam Energy Strategy 2040 is an ambitious, realistic and absolutely necessary plan to achieve a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2025, a 75% reduction by 2040, and ultimate independence from fossil fuels. According to this strategy, Amsterdam must strive to make the city sustainable in every way – it must become financially sustainable as well as energy independent. This will ‘require new forms of cooperation.’

‘If we want to achieve our goal,’ says AIF founding fund manager, Maarten van Casteren, ‘We need to mobilise the whole city.’ This year, the fund has won a place among finalists for the City Climate Leadership Award for its role in generating the contribution of citizens, building owners, housing corporations, schools and SMEs in this drive towards sustainability.

Multiplication through know-how

‘When we established the fund a lot was already happening in the city without government involvement,’ says Casteren, ‘but they had trouble getting started. Residents were more focussed on lowering their energy bills, but funding was not available from the market.’

Lack of initial cash-flow is often a key barrier to sustainable initiatives seeking bank loans or investments. ‘The AIF helps them with technical knowledge and funding from the very early stage,’ explains Casteren. The fund does not offer subsidies, but soft loans and equity deals for viable projects. The loans can be repaid through the savings or profits generated by increased energy efficiency. The technical and economic feasibility of projects is ensured before the loans are made, thus making AIF-approved projects more attractive to other investors.

Built to last

The structure of the AIF is characterised by a rigorous rating system based on economic returns as well as qualitative assessment criteria: innovation, duplication, diversification and visibility. Its success in generating both sustainable energy solutions and a healthy fund lies in the complex interaction of different financing strategies aimed at different target groups. The fund dedicates 20% to social returns, and 80% to commercial ones. Large scale, high-interest commercial investments generate the profit to fund smaller scale social investments with low or zero interest rates. All projects require a minimum outcome of at least 45kg of CO2 savings per project euro invested and commercial investments require a minimal return of 7.5% per annum so that the sum can be reinvested. ‘The fund has to revolve,’ explains Casteren, ‘because it must stay intact over several years.’

Mobilising the city

‘The public response to the fund has been very good,’ says Casteren, ‘We invested a total of EUR 22 million in less than a year for over 40 projects, varying from large scale commercial projects to solar panels for a sports club.’ All of these projects are led by citizens wanting to contribute to an energy efficient future.

New business models

Earlier this year, the AIF-funded Rockstart Smart Energy Programme received applications from start-ups in 39 different countries looking for support to get their ideas off the ground. Based on energy-efficiency potential and economic viability, ten of these companies were chosen and invited to Amsterdam to receive all the support that the programme could offer them. As well as a cash investment of €20,000, the young entrepreneurs were provided with office, legal and fiscal support, intensive coaching from 80 different mentors, and the opportunity to pitch their business in front of over 200 investors. In return for all of this, the fund owns an 8% share in each business.

Ideas range from simple but effective energy-awareness solutions like TheCityGame andGive O2 – apps designed to motivate and spread sustainable behaviour – to ambitious platforms like We Share Solar, which sets out to create a solar energy revolution.

Care to save wants to change attitudes to energy by educating the next generation, ‘often it is they who educate parents,’ says founder, Andrily Shmyhelskyy. But great intentions alone would not create a viable business. That is where Rockstart came in, ‘The mentoring helped us a lot to understand how the market works and how to manufacture this product. The programme allowed us to assess the market and learn how to develop our business.’

‘Accelerating start-ups is key to the global energy transition,’ says Marcel Peters, CEO and founder of another chosen business, Bundles, ‘It is of course mostly about technological innovations, but without changing business models the adoption of these technologies will not prosper. Creating a new business model is 1000 times easier for a start-up than for an existing company…’

After the huge success of this first edition, the 2015 Rockstart Acceleration Programme is already underway, with applications flooding in from all over the world.

Energy means business

Last October, the AIF used €45 million to create The Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund (AKEF). The fund is dedicated to commercial projects with commercial interest rates. The Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) helps to evaluate investment applications in terms of sustainability, energy conservation and technical feasibility, and all investments must actively lower CO 2 emissions. E3 , a consortium of business, climate and energy experts, ensures financial returns in line with the prevailing market, and manages the fund according to the mandate of the AIF. ‘This allows them to act swiftly and smoothly in the market place,’ explains Casteren, ‘operating under investment rules, and taking business decisions without political influence.’

In its first year, AKEF has helped to bring about OrangeGas gas stations, where vehicles can be refuelled using gas made from biological waste and sewage sludge. By providing the Ajax Football Stadium with an initial investment of 1.6 million, AKEF is also behind the installation of a 4,200 solar panels on the roof of the stadium, bringing the Amsterdam Arena closer to the goals of its exciting sustainability project, Amsterdam ArenA. Naturally sustainable. It is not only the profits of this investment that will lead to changes in Amsterdam; the high-visibility solar roof has provoked competition with other buildings vying for the title of largest solar roof in the city, thus fuelling the sustainability drive in the city.

Braving the future

Already the AIF has a direct impact on global energy transition, actively sharing information and best practices with other global cities through its participation in the C40 Sustainable Infrastructure Finance Network. ‘There is a change in approaching sustainable projects from a business perspective,’ says Casteren. Revolving loans are keeping the wheels turning for perpetual energy improvements in Amsterdam, and the approach may have the potential to accelerate the energy transition elsewhere in Europe in preparation for 2020.

Next year holds exciting and challenging developments for the city: only climate-neutral buildings will be constructed from 2015; electric transport will be further increased to 40,000 electric vehicles; and the city aims to make solar energy cost-effective for businesses. These changes will require the support of businesses and citizens, innovative technology and the clever use of funds, and the Amsterdam Investment Fund is there to help it happen.


Read more about the Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund

Read more about the role of the ECN in the fund

Click here to view last year’s exciting Rockstart demo day!

EU deploys innovative finance tools to improve energy efficiency

Ambitious energy efficiency targets will require significant investment from the private sector. Public authorities are learning fast from innovative financing mechanisms the EU is putting in place to achieve this.

Energy efficiency has traditionally been viewed as a public good financed by public sector grants. But the public purse can only do so much and the pressure is mounting.

Now, with rising energy prices and an increasingly urgent climate agenda, European energy legislation is driving ambitious targets including: renovation of public buildings; energy efficiency obligations for energy suppliers; and overall demand-side reduction.

Growing investment opportunity

Across all sectors, global energy efficiency investments totalled $300 billion in 2011 – a substantial and growing market opportunity for investors.

It is estimated that urban areas are responsible for 70% – 80% of energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in Europe. For this reason, various EU initiatives are encouraging towns and cities to take the lead in the fight against climate change.

To reach the EU’s 20:20:20 target (20% of EU energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020; a 20% improvement in energy efficiency; and a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990), the required annual investment in the buildings sector alone is estimated at €65-100 billion ($89-136 billion) between 2011 and 2020.

Public authorities are generally called upon to lead investments. Across Europe, over 300 regions and 150,000 municipalities account for two-thirds (€178.9 billion in 2011) of the total public investment expenditure and have major powers in key sectors such as education, the environment, transport and economic development.

Grant support for public authorities in any Member State seeking to launch sustainable energy investments is available under the Intelligent Energy Europe programme (launched in 2003 and now subsumed into the EU’s €80 billion research and innovation programme Horizon 2020).

Ambitious leverage goals

Grants amounting to €148 million are disbursed via the European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) facility (administered by the European Investment Bank, Germany’s KfW, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Council of Europe Development Bank) and the Mobilising Local Energy Investments (MLEI) facility –administered by the European Commission’s agency for small and medium-sized enterprises (EASME).

This grant support is conditional on projects achieving a minimum leverage (EU grant to total investment) of 1:20 and 1:15, respectively. So far, €81.2 million has been provided to 56 projects.

Achieving this leverage requires local and regional authorities to negotiate a steep learning curve. New kinds of partnerships with financial institutions will be crucial to scaling up sustainable energy investment programmes, and combining public and private funding.

Building renovation is essential

Thorough renovation of buildings involves long payback periods but is essential to achieve the maximum savings potential – and reach the EU objective of reducing buildings’ energy consumption by 80 % by 2050. In support of this goal, the Commission is designing new ‘off the shelf’ financial instruments, including renovation loans, aimed at combining public and private money to finance investment in energy efficiency or renewables.

“It’s going to take a historic level of public-private cooperation to meet the EU’s 2020 targets,” said a recent report from the Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG), which includes high level representatives of the European Commission’s DG Energy, UNEP Finance Initiative, financial institutions and investment funds.

In its first report released in April, the group concluded that, in order to attract private capital such as pension funds, insurance or real estate trust funds, the energy efficiency investment market “needs to transform” – to become more predictable, well-understood and standardised.

According to Paul Hodson, head of the energy efficiency unit at DG Energy: “Energy efficiency is today at the crossroads. Either it will become a mainstream investment area, or we risk losing the vast potential to invest into measures that not only contribute to the fight against climate change, but also bring economic benefits.”

The Commission is now undertaking a review of energy efficiency policy, he notes. “We are convinced that this will help to transform the market as needed – and as called for by market participants.”


From 2014 to 2020, another pot of EU public money – upwards of €37 billion earmarked for the ‘transition to a low-carbon economy’ – is available through the European Structural and Investment funds. The Commission is pushing Member States to replace grants with revolving loans or guarantee funds (for residential retrofit) and energy performance contracts for public and commercial buildings.

Optimal strategies for developing the energy efficiency investment market are under discussion within EEFIG but, as coordinator Peter Sweatman points out: “We’re working with 51 people representing 30 institutions to deliver a consensus view on financing energy efficiency. We have our work cut out for us.”

Leadership for energy efficiency

In conversation with BUILD UP, Rod Janssen, long-term consultant to the European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (eceee) talks about the Recast EPBD, low energy buildings and the need for strong leadership on energy efficiency.


What was eceee’s involvement in the EPBD and the Recast EPBD?

Firstly, eceee closely followed the approval process of the EPBD through the European Parliament and Council and its subsequent implementation. It was heavily involved in the Recast EPBD—providing briefings and updates on technical issues to members and the wider energy efficiency community via the eceee website. This increased involvement in the Recast saw eceee helping out in the negotiation and approval process. For example, no formal definition of deep renovation existed so, the eceee commissioned ECOFYS to define deep retrofit. And at the eceee summer study peer-reviewed papers on energy efficiency are presented and discussed in panel sessions. At the 2009 summer study the issue of cost optimality was clarified—one participant commented ‘now I understand, clearly how to apply the principle of cost optimality’.

Within the Recast EPBD there are no binding targets, how does this affect EU Member States?

On DG Energy’s website, energy efficiency targets for 2020 are listed for each member state. If a member state estimates that it will meet this target then there is no pressure on local governments to be more ambitious than building codes or the targets set out by central government.eceee was particularly concerned that no specific targets were set for existing buildings, which represent the bulk of the building stock and the potential energy savings for this sector. However, the Recast EPBD was implemented when Europe was in the middle of an economic crisis. Put simply there were no resources in member states. Deep retrofit—factor 4 or 5—can be complex and very costly. Even if it is cost effective over live cycle analysis, upfront capital is still required to fund the works. Financing retrofit works and nearly zero energy design is major challenge.

Under the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), a public buildings renovation target of 15 % (3 % per annum) was outlined. The directive further states that member states should start with least energy efficient buildings. However, most member states do not have an inventory of public building stockso how can they target the worst performing stock?

How can the low energy building market be stimulated?

There is little new construction in Europe as member states are still going through economic upheaval, so it is difficult to say how we can stimulate the market, let alone encourage low energy design. The building inventory in Europe is increasing by approximately 1 % per annum; in London this is approximately 0.5 % per annum.

The introduction of cost optimality and nearly zero energy buildings in the Recast EPBD forms the building blocks for future low energy design. Local governments and actors need to take a more holistic view because boosting the low energy building market will create thousands of jobs—money saved on fuel bills can be spent elsewhere in the economy, creating a resilient local economy. Energy efficient buildings are key to solving the economic crisis.

What is needed at a European level to ensure an increase in the low energy building market?

Transparency and strong leadership from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council is needed. But, things are set to change because a new Commissioner for Energy will come into office in 2014. The energy efficiency community are following the implementation of the Recast EPBD and the EED. It is fundamental that these directives be implemented with commitment and effectiveness. In years gone by this it was left to concerted action—which is a necessary and invaluable resource—but it is not enough. There is too much vested interest—an independent voice is needed. The Coalition for Energy Savings, for example, are a body of industry associations and NGOs who put pressure on the Commission and raise awareness about implementation of directives.

At a local level in domestic and non-domestic retrofit, there is scope for an expert energy advisor—who is knowledgeable on European and national legislation, and energy efficiency—to de-mystify retrofit and ensure that upon refurbishing we do not lock in problems for the future. Retrofit is a big investment for an individual or commercial entity. However, the technical solutions offered are often complex. A building owner needs to know how long a project will take, what disruptions will occur, if it can be done step-by-step and what alternatives are available. Trade organisations and NGOs advocate a one-time deep retrofit but the reality is that building owners often cannot afford this upfront investment.

How can we ensure a more coordinated approach?

National energy agencies have an important role to play—for example, SEAI (Ireland) and ADEME (France)—to raise awareness about retrofit. These agencies have the expertise to ensure collaborative work with the financial community and the building professional community, especially on innovative financial mechanisms. The future is uncertain, we do not know if a nearly zero energy hospital will be more expensive to build than an ordinary hospital in 2019?

At a local level, local government, local authorities and energy agencies need to learn how to bundle money. For example, using resources from energy efficiency obligations together with government funding, loans from financial institutes and private savings.


Crowdfunding for renewables – game-changer?

Crowdfunding of renewable energy projects is growing fast in Europe. If this grassroots movement gets organized in time to access the big money available in the next round of
cohesion funding, it could have far reaching effects on the European energy sector.

In recession era Europe, much talk is of ‘innovative’ or ‘alternative’ financing for sustainable energy – meaning money other than the public purse. In 2012 crowdfunding in Europe saw an estimated 65 % growth compared to 2011 and reached €735 million. With industry insiders Massolution forecasting an 81 % increase in global crowdfunding volumes in 2013, it looks like crowdfunding might just get serious.

Crowdfunding has several things going for it compared to traditional funding, as was noted recently in a report published by the European Capacity Building Initiative. First, crowdfunding can provide finance to small business and community organizations otherwise excluded from formal finance. This support for entrepreneurship is also touted as a leading advantage by lobby group European
Crowdfunding Network
Speed in mobilising funding is a another characteristic of crowdfunding– as neatly demonstrated in the recent new world record where  €1.3 million was raised in just 13 hours by selling shares in a wind turbine to 1700 Dutch households in a deal brokered by Windcentrale. Risk-taking, necessary for marketing novel renewable energy products which still need to be tested in large scale, can also be addressed by crowd sourced finance as it taps into a more risk-tolerant segment of lenders or investors.


Accelerated through social media and online communication, crowdfunding is a financial power tool for energy cooperatives.

To realize the ambitions of local sustainable energy plans, ‘community finance’ – which may be regarded as a form of crowdfunding – could be a big part of the solution.  Given the speed with which both crowdfunding and the energy cooperative sector are
expanding (the number of European energy grew cooperatives grew from 1200 last
year to some 2000 this year), community-financed cooperatives could seriously
shake up the energy market in many countries.

Energy cooperatives have perhaps been most successful so far in Denmark. According to Dirk Vansintjan of Belgian renewable energy cooperative Ecopower, ‘For
Danes, it is the natural way of organizing themselves. Since the Middle Ages
they’ve been doing it, and today most renewable projects in the country are
organized this way.’

Germany too is a leader in the field of community energy, with 65 % of its renewable energy capacity community-owned. There are over 600 energy cooperatives in Germany, the number having increased tenfold in the period from 2000-2010.

Despite a long tradition of cooperatives, Spain just gained its first in the energy sector – Som Energia. By June 2013, this cooperative had 8000 members and had invested more
than €3 million in renewable energy production projects – an impressive result
in an acutely recession-struck country in less than two years.

In the UK, where rising household energy prices are hitting the headlines and energy is set to become a major election issue in May 2015, local energy cooperatives are seen as a way to combat the monopoly of the ‘Big Six’ – Britain’s biggest energy suppliers.  The movement is supported by some local authorities, such as Cornwall County Council which has made a €1.2 million revolving loan fund available to help community groups build local renewable energy installations.  Also at the forefront of this work is Cornish energy charity Community Energy Plus. Energy advisor Neil Farrington says, ‘We are currently working with fifteen community energy cooperatives across Cornwall with more emerging every few weeks.’

In Croatia, the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) plans to develop a crowdfunding platform for community energy projects and has issued a call for cooperatives to submit project proposals. According to Mak Đukan and Robert Pašičko of the UNDP Environmental Governance program in Croatia, design of the UNDP crowdfunding platform  will incorporate the best elements of crowdfunding platforms specifically designed to support renewable energy projects, such as Solar Schools, Abundance Generation, Sun Funder and Solar Mosaic.

Cohesion funding

If matched or leveraged with other funding, community finance could become a much bigger player in Europe’s energy transition. And it just so happens that between now and next summer, there is a brief window of opportunity to access a big pot of money – upwards of €20 billion in fact. This is the ballpark figure of what will be allocated to investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy in the next funding period of the EU Cohesion Funds for 2014-2020.

Cohesion funds are part of the EU budget aimed at reducing regional disparities in terms of income, wealth and opportunities. How the money is spent at national level is determined by negotiation between the Commission and the national Managing Authority.  This is made formal through Partnership Agreements (essentially overarching national strategies, setting out plans for use of the funds) and Operational Programmes (setting out a region’s priorities for delivering the funds). The point is, the negotiation process is taking place now, and for local sustainable energy leaders to have a shot at the money, they need to be aware of and influencing this process.

Whether or not this can happen depends on a number of factors – for example how transparent or opaque the national managing authority is in public consultation, the degree of support and involvement from local authorities and perhaps most importantly, the willingness and capacity of localized initiatives to get to grips with the maze of bureaucracy involved. But given that many energy cooperatives have tackled administrative and legal complexity in gaining grid access, they might just be able to handle this.

Earlier this month representatives from DG Regio (The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional Policy) and associations of local authorities discussed the potential for community sustainable energy projects to access cohesion funding.  It was concluded that although no precedents exist, there are no legal barriers for community finance to provide the private finance element needed to leverage the EU Cohesion funds.

To be first in this would be some achievement – and for now, the door is open. For example, community led local development is one of the new aspects of cohesion policy that could support voluntary and community organisations, and local authorities among others. Crucially, community led local development (CLLD) must be included in the – now in draft form – national Partnership Agreements. Unless the box is ticked for CLLD, community based crowdfunded initiatives and other third sector enterprises (like renewable energy cooperatives) cannot get access to the big money available through cohesion funding. The devil is in the details – but with billions of euro on the table, there’s a lot to play for. It will be 2021 by the time the next negotiation period rolls around. What will the energy landscape look like then?

CEO Peter Terium of RWE – one of Europe’s largest utilities – stated in 2012: ‘Our core markets are changing remarkably fast. Almost no other industry is currently undergoing such dynamic change as the energy sector…The success of this transformation of the
energy industry will be decided at the local level.’

Can the upstarts join forces with the bureaucrats? If the local can get organized quickly enough, distributed energy could become a game-changer faster than we think.



Read more:

EU Cohesion policy
support for sustainable energy

Structural and
Investment funds 2014-2020

energy cooperatives

EPC in Croatia, Czech Republic & Denmark

ESCO market in Czech Republic

ESCO market in Czech Republic – success factors

ManagEnergy capacity building workshops
have primarily focused on energy performance contracting in 2012-2013, in support of DG Energy’s campaign.

Nils Daugaard and Ezgi Basar report
from the campaign trail and compare market success factors.

For outsourced energy services, Czech Republic is considered a frontrunner in Europe, the Croatian market is still in an early stage and in Denmark the market is rapidly growing. Looking at these three countries gives an insight into the different concerns and drivers at every stage of market development.

The Croatian EPC market is in an early stage and there is only one ESCO active in the market. Limited legal framework and public procurement rules are seen as big barriers. Other leading factors are the lack of reliable energy consumption data and another is the mistrust in ESCOs.

Complicated contractual agreements prepared with unreliable data are not able to guarantee the profit both for the ESCOs and clients, thus leading to failures. Furthermore, the unclear, complex and failed contracts raise the mistrust in ESCOs and create a bad reputation around EPC.

Collaboration, commitment and cultural issues are also emerging issue – showing that technical risks are not as important as other barriers.

The Danish ESCO and EPC market has boomed in recent years due to an increasing number
of ESCO projects in the public sector. Although there is rapid market growth, there is still remaining mistrust in the ESCOs which needs to be overcome for further market development.

An important success factor is the high level of competence of local authorities in managing contracts. This competence has been built up as the first EPC in the public sector proved successful. Today around 30 municipalities out of a total of 98 are engaged
in EPC activities.

Easy access to financial instruments is seen relatively important for market success. With the support of national legal framework and the European directives, it is possible to acquire fund and grants for energy efficiency projects.

A key national initiative has been to limit the restriction for taking loans to EPC projects that Danish municipalities are otherwise subject to. This way the municipalities have access to ‘soft’ (meaning below market interest rate) or favourable loans (down to 1.5 -2 % interest rate). This factor,
together with the increasing confidence and competence in EPC projects as such, has created a positive spiral so the EPC projects have increased to a volume of EUR 6-20 million per project and normally include deep renovation to incorporate energy saving measures with long term payback.

The Czech Republic is a frontrunner; the ESCO market in the country is considered mature and the growth is stable with almost 200 projects in place.

Taking all success factors into consideration, it can be seen that the supportive policies and implementing measure incentives are seen to be key to the success of the EPC in Czech Republic.

In addition the steady rise in the energy costs is supporting the EPC success through ensuring profit through energy savings.

Access to financial instruments and competence of the local authorities in contract management, is also pointed out as significant contributors to the success story of the EPC in the country.

Overall the report concludes that policy support is an essential factor for paving the way for energy performance contracting. In less developed markets, the first action should be to establish a favourable legal framework. Access to financial resources is a crucial factor for increasing EPC capacity. Ensuring reliable energy consumption data is important in order to establish trust.

It is important not to forget that capacity building in energy performance contracting is not the only way, but a good solution of increasing the energy efficiency implementations. Various other solutions and plans can be developed in national and international level and each community must find its own
route suited its specific ambitions and circumstances.

Read the full report here

Read about the energy performance contracting campaign

More about energy performance contracting across Europe

EPC articles, workshops, case studies – here

Structural Cohesion Funds for energy efficiency in buildings 2007-2013: An overview

Posted by ManagEnergy on 03/09/13
Tags: ,  

In light of the current economic situation, one way the public sector can invest in building energy efficiency is by using European Structural and Cohesion Funds, financial tools set up to implement the regional policies of the European Union (also known as Cohesion Policy).

Structural Funds are made up of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). Cohesion Funds are used to fund projects in the environment, transport, infrastructure and renewable energy sectors. More than a third of the European Union budget is used for Cohesion Policy.

The current regional policy framework, running from 2007 ‐ 2013 was allocated €350 billion. The Structural and Cohesion Funds offer a good opportunity to bridge the gap between potential and actual energy efficiency investments, as part of the funds is directly dedicated to sustainable energy. The share for energy efficiency and renewable energy represents about €9 billion, of which €4.3 billion is available for New Member States.

How do Structural and Cohesion Funds work?

At EU level, Structural Funds are centrally managed by the European Commission (DG Regio). The European Commission drafts regulations, called Community Strategic Guidelines, outlining the aims and objectives for the funding period. Member states propose a National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) which outlines the priorities, strategic framework and available budget for the Operational Programmes (OP). EU cohesion policy complements national funding so member states also commit some the National budget to the Operational Programmes. 

To develop a successful project using SCF:

•Learn from good practices
•Find your nearest Energy Agency to get advice
•Study EC INFOREGIO portal
•Meet your SF Managing Authority and find out about the funding priorities for your sustainable energy project and what SF money available
•Visit the DG Regional Policy website
•Find out about non-grant EC instruments: loans, equity, venture capital (JESSICAJEREMIEJASPERSJASMINE)

Managing Authorities , appointed by member states, are responsible for managing the Operational Programmes, informing potential beneficiaries, selecting projects and generally monitoring  implementation of the Structural Funds at regional or national level. This interactive map details existing Managing Authorities in all member states. In the current programming period, the budget for the Structural Funds is divided among 355 Operational Programmes.

Applications for funding are welcomed from private, public and third sectors who propose projects that deliver on Cohesion policy objectives. Once an applicant identifies a project opportunity, they need to check the eligibility of the project under the existing Operational Programme and contact the Managing Authority (MA) or an Energy Agency to verify that there is still money left in the Operational Programme to finance the project. Usually funding is allocated through a call for proposals, although some MAs have open calls with no specific deadline. The Manual for financing RES and EE projects with Structural and Cohesion Funds provides beneficiaries with clear and simple steps to develop and obtain funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The contribution of Structural Funds depends on the type of project, on the focus of the Operational Programmes and on the beneficiary. The funds partially finance projects and it is the responsibility of the applicant to get the remaining co-financing, through bank loans, local or regional funds or by private means. In general, EU co-financing rates go from 50% in the more developed regions to 80% in the less developed ones. It can be as low as 20% in Western Europe.

Front Runners


Grants for energy efficiency in housing – France

Under the 2007-2013, programming period each French region allocated up to 4% of their Operational Programme to energy efficiency investments and greater use of renewable energy in existing housing. Projects had to target the most energy inefficient buildings and implement the most effective energy-saving actions. Two types of housing were eligible: social housing and run-down co-ownership with social occupation.

For existing buildings, eligible actions had to achieve a gain of at least 80kWh/m2 and reach an energy consumption of less than 150kWh/m 2. The French government used ERDF funding in a grant scheme as an additional financial resource to reach its objectives of retrofitting 800,000 energy inefficient social dwellings.

Effective educational infrastructure – Bulgaria

The city of Dobrich in north-eastern Bulgaria refurbished seven municipal buildings, five schools and two kindergartens. Energy saving measures included energy audits, replacement windows, installation of insulation, roof repairs and reconstruction of public areas. The project was completed through the Regional Development 2007-2013 Operational Programme, with 84% of the total investment costs financed through Structural Cohesion funds. Furthermore, cooperation with energy services companies (ESCOs) has been established to leverage on private partner investments for future projects. This project was cited as one of Good Practice examples in the SF Energy Invest project.

Through the implementation of such successful projects Dobrich municipality demonstrates that we are highly motivated and strive to be a sustainable model of the evolving European community with low energy consumption, reduced CO2 emissions and better protection of the natural environment.” Detelina Nikolova, Mayor of Dobrich Municipality

The JESSICA holding fund for domestic retrofits – Lithuania

The JESSICA holding fund can be adopted as an innovative way of using Structural Funds, by moving from grant incentivised mechanisms to revolving funds. A revolving fund allows for the loan amount to be withdrawn, repaid, and redrawn again such that funds remain available for investment in further projects. This type of financing tool facilitates a continuous source of funds and ensures the sustainability of projects.

In June 2009 the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Lithuania, the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania and EIB established the JESSICA Holding Fund for the modernisation of apartments. The EIB-managed JESSICA Holding Fund is aimed at energy efficiency projects for multi-apartment housing via the Lithuanian banking sector. Loans are offered to home-owners in multi-apartment buildings with tenant associations acting as representatives, managing the energy efficiency implementation process. €227 million was invested in the Holding Fund is, which consists of ERDF funds (€127 million) and national funding (€100 million). Results from the Vaišvilos g. 9, Plungė project show that over 50 apartments were refubished, with a pre-refurbishment energy rating of band E, which increased to band B after works were completed, achieving energy savings of over 55%.

The prospect of energy savings, improved energy efficiency and increasing the share of renewable energy projects financed by Structural Cohesion Funds is very attractive. Even with the increasing scarcity of public resources, Europe can meet 2020 targets by employing innovative financing mechanisms such as revolving loans, soft loans, guarantees and tax incentives.

This article is the first in a series of ManagEnergy articles on using Structural Cohesion funds to finance energy efficiency in buildings.


ELENA facility finances energy performance contracting in Italy

Posted by ManagEnergy on 03/09/13

ManagEnergy caught up with Claudia Carani of the Modena Energy Agency (AESS) at its recent capacity building workshop in Sardinia where she described recent developments in the municipality’s €54 million ELENA-funded energy efficiency project.

The city council of Modena joined the Covenant of Mayors in January 2010. The city developed a Sustainable Energy Action Plan of the Municipality of Modena with the support of come2CoM. The strategic document included input from different stakeholders, public and private, to achieve the commitment of the Covenant of Mayors to reduce the CO2 emissions by 20% in 2020.

To convert the Covenant of Mayors commitment from targets into concrete actions, the municipality of Modena had to look for alternative financing solutions. The internal stability pact, limiting increases in public budgets has put Italian municipalities under financial stress. On top of this there is little potential for loans and investments within Italy.

Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) offered the municipality of Modena a solution to financing. An EPC is a performance-based procurement method and financial mechanism for building renovation. Utility bill savings result from the installation of new building systems thereby reducing energy use and paying for the cost of the building renovation. A “Guaranteed Energy Savings” Performance Contract obliges the contractor, a qualified Energy Services Company (ESCO), to pay the difference if at any time the savings fall short of the guarantee.

To finance the project Modena AESS applied for ELENA funding to support Local Authorities in the Province of Modena. The energy efficiency projects included installation of PV plants on publicly owned roof tops, retrofitting of public buildings to improve the energy performance and improving street lighting within a number of municipalities in the Province of Modena. The project value is €54 million and will be completed by August 2014.

The project targets are:

  • Energy savings: 17,200 MWh
  • Energy produced by renewable sources: 12,200 MWh
  • CO2 saved: 9,900 tCO2/y

Is this project replicable? What needs to be in place in municipalities for a project like this to be successful?

The project is replicable. Scale of projects is a major barrier for energy agencies and local authorities. ELENA expects investments of at least €30 million in energy efficiency and renewable projects. This means that small local authorities must partner with others in order to achieve the size of project and scale of investment required.

What recommendations do you have for other agencies thinking about seeking ELENA funding?

Energy agencies should identify a contracting authority at provincial level to simplify the procedure of applying for ELENA funding. Energy agencies play an important role in finding projects at regional level, they also tend to have project management experience at European level, as such they are best placed to apply for ELENA funding. If energy agencies can share project risks with local authorities through, for example, providing up to or over 10% co-financing and assisting with project implementation, 2020 goals will be achieved. More….

What benefits have you seen so far? How many public buildings have seen improvements in energy efficiency? How many public buildings have PV on roofs?

The following table shows the interim results:

Expected May 2013
(published Calls) (Calls next publication)


170 with an average power of 33 kWp 

(tot. 5.5 MWp)



180 = 50 MWt, of which: 

- 2.5 MWt from biomass boiler;

- 1.9 MWt from geothermal heat pump system;

- 2,000 mq from Solar Thermal system;

- external insulation.

35 published calls with: 

- 29 buildings with renovation heating system (6,6MWt);

- 16mq of Solar Thermal.

98 calls with: 

- 4,800 m2 from external insulation;

- 195 kW from biomass boiler;

- 5 buildings with 90m2 of Solar Thermal.



27,000 2,961 16,718

What were the most important challenges?

The most important challenges:

  • Difficulties within the Local Administration in ELENA management and in understanding the real potential of EPC contacts;
  • The existence of long running contracts for buildings and public lighting with energy management companies, these deadlines date long after the project
    deadline of 2014;
  • New national Italian laws which require Municipalities to adhere to national-regional contracting authorities (CONSIP/ Intercent-ER) for goods and
    services procurement;
  • Earthquake events destroyed half of the Provincial territory in May 2012;
  • Feed-in tariffs (ContoEnergia) for PV plants are frozen.
What finance model was used?
PV Roofs: A portion of the roofs on Municipal buildings were assigned for the use of PV. PV systems were supplied through a leasing procedure with
the ESCO. A works contract was drawn up for installing PV systems in public buildings.
Public Buildings, 

including RES:

A works contract for installing solar thermal systems for production of DHW in public buildings was drawn up with the ESCO to include
energy supply, operations and maintenance services and the upgrading of heating systems in public buildings.
Street Lighting: For the Street Lighting service, including investments on energy efficiency, the ESCO guaranteed a minimum energy performance which was
assigned by a project financing procedure. The ESCO also guaranteed energy performance for the management of public lighting plants and
traffic lights plants.

Benefits that were not foreseen by Modena were the increased local capacity within Local Authorities, where ELENA calls were developed and improved networking of knowledge. Interest increased and attitudes changed towards the EPC call for tender and EPC contract management within Local Authorities. The replication potential of this project for other municipalities is considered high, particularly in Italy. In addition, the use of ESCOs under a performance contracting scheme is a replication of experiences in other EU member states.

Car-sharing in Dublin

Posted by ManagEnergy on 26/08/13

Dublin city council, Ireland has licensed car-sharing company GoCar to operate 50 vehicles in 31 pay-and-display locations across the city.

It is estimated that one vehicle in a car-sharing scheme could replace 15 privately owned cars driving in the city centre, lowering traffic and making public transport more efficient. A reduction in traffic will also encourage more people to walk and cycle.

While a shift to sustainable modes of transport will help reduce emissions, the cars perform a similar function—they are generally smaller models with better fuel efficiency.

Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Oisìn Quinn, said that “Dublin City Council wants car clubs operating from on-street parking spaces because we believe they will play an important role in improving traffic management in the city.”

Members using the cars won’t have to worry about paying for parking at pay-and-display places, as this is covered by a fee that = GoCar pays to the city council.

More car sharing information:

Car Sharing Bremen

Tour-de-table: Communication in energy agencies and the EPBD

Posted by ManagEnergy on 26/08/13

What is being done in energy agencies to comply with Article 20 of EPBD? ManagEnergy takes a tour-de-table around Austria and Belgium-Flanders and Netherlands to find out more. Article 20 of the recast EPBD relates to the provision of information. Owners and tenants of building shall be provided with information on the different methods and practices for improving energy performance.

Herbert Greisberger from the Lower Austrian Energy Agency (ENU)

Are you running any information campaigns relevant to owners and tenants?

We provide a service that advises owners and tenants on energy issues, with a focus on energy saving. In 2012 we had about 5,000 cases of energy consulting for private households and communities. This service is supported by an information campaign, including advertisements and public events. Energiebewegung is a web-based activity to spread best practice examples of private households. The website includes advertisements and information activities. These information campaigns continue without major changes.

Why have you chosen to focus on this area/audience segment in the information campaign?

The regional governments in Austria are responsible for energy efficiency in buildings. Therefore it is one of the major tasks for all regional energy agencies. Lower Austria implemented an energy efficiency law in 2012 and the ENU was assigned to support the implementation of this law. Furthermore, owners and tenants are the most important target group for energy efficient buildings.

Have you measured the impact of past information campaigns at improving owner and tenant knowledge?

We regularly measure feedback including degree of participation,, number of energy consultations and quality of service.

Will promotion of nZEBs and the cost optimal methodology form part of future campaigns?

Of course it will be part of our information campaigns as it is in the core of our work, even though we will not use the term nZEBs as it is not well understood by the target group.

Geert Flipts from the Flanders energy agency Vlaams Energieagentschap (VEA)

Are you running any information campaigns relevant to owners and tenants?

The Flemish Energy Agency regularly organises information campaigns to promote rational use of energy (RUE). The main focus in these campaigns is the availability of subsidies for RUE investments. In communication campaigns, we mainly focus on owners, however there are also some initiatives focussed on tenants. A special information package has been developed for intermediary organisations that have contacts with tenants.

What future information campaigns have you planned?

By the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, we plan a new big information campaign on subsidies for renovation.

Why have you chosen to focus on this area/audience segment in the information campaign?

Subsidies are still the main trigger to make for investments in RUE. In the Flanders region, more than 80% of the households live in owner occupied houses. These owners are most willing to maintain the value of their property, to improve the energy efficiency of their house in order to lower the energy bill. Landlords are the most difficult group to target as rental income does not increase significantly after carrying out energy efficiency works.

Have you measured the impact of past information campaigns at improving owner and tenant knowledge?

Information campaigns are only a part of the global energy policy. Therefore, measuring the impact of campaigns on energy efficiency invest is difficult. On a 2-year basis, we review the knowledge and willingness to invest in the RUE by owners and tenants. The latest results are available here.

Will promotion of nZEBs and the cost optimal methodology form part of future campaigns?

A communication strategy is being developed regarding the promotion of NZEB. The main focus will be early adopters, with a labelling/promotion system for future owners, architects and constructors. On the other hand, we have an agreement with some banks to give more favourable loans for NZEB owners.

Marjolein Heinemans from NL Agency / NL Energy & Climate

Are you running any information campaigns relevant to owners and tenants?

Currently, there is no active government information campaign in the Netherlands. The previous information campaign has been carried out by the Ministry of Housing is described. Links to past advert campaigns: here and here

What future information campaigns have you planned?

Currently no large information campaigns for home owners and/or tenants are planned. Agency NL, (the Dutch Energy Agency), informs professionals in the building industry via the website, through brochures and stakeholder meetings. Agency NL informs them on the EPBD and the EPBD recast and on what they need to do to fulfil requirements of the EPBD.

Website tools to check the energy performance of a building can be found here and here. The first site is aimed at professionals like advisors, installers, real estate agents that come into contact with people who want to sell or renovate their house. This tool can be used to give an idea of what upgrade options are available and what options are financially viable. The second site is more developed for the home owner so he can do a first check for himself.

A separate organisation, Milieu Centraal focuses on providing information to home owners/consumers here. Under the Meer met Minder (More with Less) programme  uilding companies and the Dutch government agreed to make 2,4 million homes more energy efficient. To achieve this goal Meer met Minder tries to convince home owners of the potential of energy saving in their home and enhance the commercial opportunities of companies in the building sector with regards to energy saving measures.

Energy saving in municipal buildings, ENSAMB : An innovative approach to financing building upgrades

Posted by ManagEnergy on 26/08/13
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The Energy saving in municipal building (ENSAMB) project was launched in 2012; it aims to achieve at least 25% energy savings in 120 municipal buildings—representing 11 GWh/year and an estimated investment of €11.2 million.

The project partners are 5 small municipalities in rural Norway—Elverum, Engerdal, Stor-Elvdal and Åmot—all of whom have also signed the Covenant of Mayors agreeing to save up to 25% energy in municipal buildings.

The development of the project was funded by Intelligent Energy Europe’s MLEI PDA fund. Additional funding for the project will be sourced from a mix of municipal budgets, subsidies from ENOVA,—a government enterprise responsible for promotion of environmentally friendly production and consumption of energy—bank loans from the Municipal Bank of Norway—with a green interest rate 0.1% below nominal—and some other banks.

The project bundles small rural municipalities that, by themselves, would be too small to set up investments—the Regional Council of South Østerdal leads the project. All municipalities will use energy performance contracting (EPC)—energy saving contracts—for upgrade works on municipal buildings. An EPC contract includes energy analysis, the implementation of measures and a warranty period—one contract will be issued per municipality for all measures on all buildings. This bundling means that buildings with similar challenges can be tackled simultaneously facilitating collective purchasing procedures.

ENSAMB procurement process

ESCOs were invited to investigate 2–4 pilot buildings, provide fixed prices for the pilot buildings and estimate the overall project cost—using an energy performance contracting model to guarantees energy savings. ESCOs have increased capacity to deal with a large volume of contracts—upgrading 150 buildings would mean managing over 1000 contracts—and the municipalities do not have the resources to handle that volume.

The Regional Council of South Østerdal evaluated the bids and asked the ESCO that was awarded the contract to re-evaluate the bid and to give fixed prices for profitable measures. If the ESCO saves more energy than predicted the profit from the EPC will be shared between the ESCO and the municipality, but if less energy is saved the ESCO must cover the difference—making it a safe contract for municipalities.

Success factors

The main success factor for the South Østerdal project is that there was a dedicated project manager which facilitated good communication between councils and good cooperation between building technicians. The project used the existing cooperation platform between the five municipalities. Furthermore the as-is description of the buildings identified through an energy audit is very important to establish a baseline and estimate future savings.

This project will run until 2015—ManagEnergy will catch up with ENSAMB in the near future!

More information:

Innovative finance approaches – EUSEW 2013 Conference