The Horizon 2020-funded Project “E-FIX” was entitled “Innovative Financing for Sustainable Energy Investments”.
E-FIX final conference was an opportunity to present and discuss energy financing from a range of angles, including the European Commission’s standpoint, that of the 6 partner countries (Austria, Armenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Poland) and also that of independent experts. This diversity of voices made it possible to grasp the complexity of the topic, which is very likely to gain in importance in the upcoming years. The use of polls allowed the audience to share their views on the topic.
Pierre Schellekens, representing the European Commission Directorate-General for Energy, highlighted the key European priorities in the years to come including the revision of the Renewable Energy and the Energy Efficiency Directives as well as an increased emphasis on hydrogen. In terms of innovative financing, he stressed that most funds for the Green Deal would come from the private sector and that innovative financial instruments are a way of increasing the engagement with the private sector. Moreover, he noted that the Green Deal would be mainstreamed into all projects in order to achieve maximum effect.
Pilot financing campaigns
Andreas Karner, the project manager of E-FIX from ConPlusUltra in Austria, highlighted the characteristics of the project and its main achievements. As a partnership of 6 countries and 14 partners, the project combined the expertise of finance and energy efficiency experts over a period of 40 months. The main achieviements include the implementation of pilot financing campaigns focussing on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the public and private sector through the demonstration of innovative financing instruments such as energy performance contracting (EPC), crowdfunding and leasing, which triggered about 30 million Euros of investment. In addition, large-scale capacity building activities in the form of training materials and tools were created as well asaction plans for energy efficiency at national level being drafted, energy financing competence centres being set up and a European Roadmap being developed, serving as a guide for the financing of energy efficiency measures until 2030.
In the nextsession, the project partners from the respective countries presented their pilot financing campaigns and lessons learnt. In general, all partners agreed that there is vast potential for the different instruments and in fact a financing mix is required, but that crowdfunding proved especially challenging due to the pandemic. In the case of leasing, a major barrier identified in Armenia and Georgia was the lack of regulatory framework and the low environmental consciousness in the countries. In the case of energy performance contracting the pilot projects realised in Poland and Croatia have been very positive, although EPC still is not a widely used model in these countries.
Session three consisted of a panel discussion made up of experts from the different partner countries. The experts agreed that projects funded solely through the crowd cannot compete with public funds or cheap loans, but that Public Private Partnerships have huge potential, e.g. through a combination with EPC contracts. It was also recognised that a mix of financing mechanisms is needed and the concomitant regulatory framework. As the level of public and private funding into sustainable energy projects will increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the newly established EU Recovery Fund (Next Generation EU), a huge investment volume is to be expected in the upcoming years. The E-FIX Roadmap was also praised for its utility in guiding a range of actors related to energy perfomance contracing, crowdfunding and leasing. All experts concurred that awareness raising is key for energy efficiency to take off in the EU and beyond.
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