What role for local authorities in the Recovery and the Renovation Wave?

Energy Cities’ analysis and suggestions for the next steps



Noémie Bichon

Publication date

June 11, 2021

Local authorities are essential actors of the Renovation Wave, a proper inclusion of the local level in the “Renovate” components of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRP) is hence crucial for their success.

Our first analysis of the Recovery plans for Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain shows that the Renovation Wave is a priority for Member States, as buildings are one of the largest sources of energy consumption in Europe, and their refurbishment creates many local jobs. The European Commission estimates that €56.1 billion will be allocated to renovation related investments, out of the €672.5 billion made available in grants and loans under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). However local authorities are mainly involved in the renovation of municipal buildings (schools, cultural & sports infrastructures), and only some Member States include them on essential measures such as combatting energy poverty. Overall, except in Spain, there is no acknowledgement of a holistic vision of the role that municipalities can play in the Renovation Wave, rather they are seen as implementors.

Cities should play the role of orchestra conductors – rather than musicians

  • They have an important role in facilitating: making demand and supply meet, supporting house-owners and SMEs in their renovations, via One-stop-shops and online platforms;
  • They are important drivers of the renovation wave: renovating municipal buildings & infrastructures is crucial but not enough to be in line with the climate neutrality targets:  municipalities can develop district heating and cooling grids fed by renewables while fighting energy poverty or rehabilitating former industrial wastelands to turn them in neutral living neighborhoods, for example.

Cities need appropriate means to reach their high ambitions, not just rapid stimulus spending

Recovery plans should not just “recover” the economy from the crisis by going back to business-as-usual. Rather, they are a unique opportunity to massively invest in the economy of the future, essential to meet EU’s climate-neutrality goal. However, Member States are looking for quick and high investment return: many calls for projects for refurbishing public buildings for example, are already open, have short deadlines, and/or prioritize projects that have the capacity of being rapidly implemented.

There are two problems with this short-term stimulus approach, the first being that the calendars are too short, and there is a risk that cities don’t have the capacities to respond to those calls.  The second issue is that this approach doesn’t allow more innovative and ambitious projects to emerge: we need to think big!

Municipalities and local authorities need two things, besides funding:

1- More technical & financial assistance: small and medium size cities in particular don’t have the human resources capacity to deliver projects to be financed under RRF or another program quickly enough. Public/private financing being essential to meet the targets, technical assistance also enables local authorities to plan innovative projects that are also economically viable and interesting for investors.

>> Check out how City Facilities can support your city in developing credible invest concepts in our latest publication.
>> Be aware that under Cohesion funds, technical support will be provided  

2- Time to Think: Member States preferred way to disburse the funds is through call for projects and as the implementation phase of the Recovery plans will start in autumn 2021, they are selecting projects now and during the summer, for a quick recovery. This does not allow cities to have time to think out of the box, get inspired through peer-to-peer exchanges and consult national experts – for an innovation-driven Renovation Wave and energy transition.

What are the next steps for local authorities?  

  • Get information on the available funds under the recovery plan, by contacting your national contact point, Finance ministries or looking on your national recovery website.
  • Act quickly, be proactive, gather relevant stakeholders, and conceive projects responding to your needs! Afterwards, you can make them fit to the coming call for projects and funding schemes.
  • Join the Efficient Buildings Community – especially if your local authority is located in the Mediterranean area – and use its tools and events to boost renovation in your place.