Future LIFE programme should support governance changes and citizen energy communities at local level

Energy Cities unveils its three proposals on how LIFE can fund cities' clean energy transition

The LIFE programme has been a valuable funding instrument for local authorities to fund best practice, pilot and demonstration projects in the field of energy and climate. The proposed changes to the LIFE programme for the next funding period of 2021-2027, in particular the creation of the new sub-programme on the clean energy transition, present key opportunities to further support local energy and climate action. Furthermore, it will be essential to ensure a smooth carry-over of the Horizon 2020 coordination and support projects on clean energy market uptake and capacity-building projects into the future LIFE programme.

Representing over 1,000 local authorities across Europe, Energy Cities has laid out its proposals for the upcoming LIFE clean energy transition sub-programme in its response to the recent EU Commission consultation on the future LIFE programme.

Three key ways for LIFE to support cities’ energy transition

In order to make a difference in this crucial decade for the local energy transition, we recommend the LIFE funding instrument to:

  • Support governance changes at local level through real market uptake: Instead of solely innovating a few districts, cities should be enabled to upscale such innovation to their entire territory. For a city to be able to change its practices and its organisation, it requires that at least 10 different districts are renovated or developed with new processes, new technologies, cross-sectoral design, innovative governance and participative approaches.
  • Set Citizen Energy Communities as overarching strategic direction for the programme: Local authorities are keen to team up with citizen energy communities to form new innovative public-civic partnerships. However, this often requires carrying feasibility studies, finding the appropriate legal structure and setting up sometimes complex partnerships, an expertise which local governments often have to subcontract at very high costs. LIFE should therefore support local authorities in gathering the necessary legal, economic, technical and governance capacities to undertake such partnerships with citizen energy communities, thereby fostering citizen buy-in and support for the clean energy transition.
  • Set a minimum co-funding rate of 80%, and as close as possible to 100% for coordination and support action projects: This level of support is indispensable to respond effectively to the needs of market uptake actions and entities, in particular local authorities. Cities require this amount of co-funding in order to be able to access and engage in these projects, as their ability to self-finance their participation in EU projects is very constrained.

In a joint letter recently sent to the EU Commission and the LIFE expert committee, Energy Cities reinforced the need for such appropriate co-funding together with other associations of cities, regional energy agencies, citizen energy cooperatives, the renewable energy industry and NGOs.