Smart cities and communities projects financed by the Horizon 2020 programme have allowed great transformation in the cities participating. But even in those cities, it was only enough to test new district developments with the objective to be as climate-neutral as possible, but it was not enough to transform the way the city takes its decisions on any new urban development schemes. For a city 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. For enterprises and cities involved in the Smart cities and communities programme, the non-continuation of heavy human and financial investment is a real failure of the current EU programmes.
The new provisions of the EU Electricity Market Design and the Renewable Energy Directive on citizen and renewable energy communities offer a whole new set of perspectives for local authorities to enter new energy market segments.
In addition, community energy projects are multiplying across Europe. As part of this momentum – which will benefit from the enabling environment provided by the Clean Energy for all Europeans Package – local authorities are keen to team up with their citizens to test new forms of 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. When it comes to tendering energy capacity, cities not only strive for green energy, but also local and participatory projects. Designing adequate public procurement rules with specific bidding criteria also requires sound legal, economic and technical expertise, which is not always available in smaller local administrations.
The LIFE sub-programme on the clean energy transition should boost this momentum, by setting the delivery of citizen and renewable energy communities across the EU as its overarching strategic direction. Through funding coordination and support projects that contribute to building the legal, economic, technical and governance capacities of local authorities to translate these new provisions into concrete projects, it would ensure the successful implementation of a key objective of the Clean Energy Package, and more importantly increase support and buy-in for the clean energy transition from citizens.
This should be done in the clean energy transition sub-programme for the actions covered under Article 10.2e of the proposal for the LIFE regulation, which are “other actions needed for the purpose of achieving the general objective set out in Article 3(1), including coordination and support actions aimed at capacity-building, dissemination of information and knowledge, and awareness-raising to support the transition to renewable energy and increased energy efficiency”. This level of support is indispensable to respond effectively to the needs of market uptake actions and entities. Moreover, local authorities require this amount of co-funding in order to be able to access and engage in these projects. The ability of local authorities to self-finance their participation in EU projects is very constrained.
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 […]