Public consultation to co-design the strategic priorities of the EU Horizon Europe programme

How the new EU funding instrument should support the local energy transition



David Donnerer

Publication date


Related legislative initiative

EU Research & Innovation Programme

Horizon Europe should play its greatest role to deliver in the medium-term the EU Energy Union Strategy (in particular the Clean Energy for all Europeans legislative package), and to achieve in the long-term by 2050 at the latest, the objective of net-zero GHG emissions. Furthermore, the new Horizon Europe programme should be used to transform the EU into a global energy transition leader, notably by making all its urban and rural territories climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest.

Introduce a right to experimentation for Europe’s cities and towns

The climate, energy and mobility cluster of Horizon Europe, in particular as concerns its intervention area on “develop sustainable infrastructure, services and systems for smart and sustainable communities and cities”, should introduce among its targeted impacts, the exploitation of “a right to experimentation” for Europe’s cities and towns.
Long term visions and ambition must be supported by innovation and experimentation, not only of new technologies, but also of societal transformation (e.g. transition management, citizen involvement processes).

European cities and towns should receive a right to experimentation, gaining access to spaces to innovate and work together in addressing the challenges of the energy and climate transition. More concretely, this entails that safe spaces outside of the existing regulatory and political framework are created for energy and climate innovation by European cities and towns. Horizon Europe should therefore support pilot projects of cities and towns that can be exempted from regulatory and political limits (both at EU and national level) in the energy market.
Towns and cities would receive funding for setting up e.g. local energy unions, trans-border energy systems where a city with an excess production of electricity in one country for example could easily supply a city in a neighbouring country. Cities could test such innovative solutions as for the duration of the funding period. Such support for innovative cross-border cooperation would also contribute to making the EU Energy Union more visible on the local level. Enabling such projects would also be cost-effective and boost energy security, as small-scale, decentralized energy systems (micro grids, trans-border micro-grids, etc.) can be flexible, resilient and cost-effective.

Through the Covenant of Mayors – Europe initiative, Cities and towns funded for these pilot projects would then regularly exchange on their progress in societal and technological innovation, thus making the initiative a real transition lab. They would also involve citizens in their experimentation journey through Hackathons for Climate, to improve their innovative approaches even further.
At the end of the first phase of the Horizon Europe programme, at least 100 European cities and towns should have been able to carry out their EU-funded right to experimentation pilot projects, fostering their energy and climate innovation solutions that go beyond the existing political and regulatory limits of the energy market.