Amended legislation on the European Energy Recovery Plan (EERP) will channel the unspent money into a new fund, to finance projects such as:
• renovations of public and private buildings to improve energy efficiency or switching to renewable energy;
• the construction of renewables-based heat-and-power installations, with distribution networks, and their integration into electricity grids;
• clean urban public transport solutions, particularly electric and hydrogen vehicles; and • local infrastructure, including efficient street lighting, electricity storage, smart metering and smart grids.
The fund will focus chiefly on helping local and regional authorities to pay for such projects, which must be economically and financially viable, so as to refund the investment in due course.
Contributions from the fund could take the form of loans, guarantees, equity or other financial products. Up to 15% of the funding may be used to provide technical assistance to public authorities to help set up the projects. Geographical balance is to be an important criterion in the selection of projects.
The EERP, which was launched in 2009, aims to boost economic recovery by funding energy projects such as cross-border gas and electricity inter-connectors, offshore wind parks, and Carbon Capture and Storage projects (CCS). In 2010 a total of €3.98 billion was earmarked for such plans.
Parliament sought unsuccessfully to include energy efficiency and renewable energy in the EERP when it was first proposed. The European Commission promised to consider this at a later stage, using funds unspent by the end of 2010. Thus, a total of €146.34 million will be available from 1 January 2011 and must be allocated by 31 March 2014.
The proposed rule changes were approved by the Energy Committee by 49 votes to 2 with no abstentions. The full Parliament will vote on the changes during the November session in Brussels.
Energy efficiency key
On Tuesday, the Energy Committee also urged the European Commission to exploit existing EU energy legislation and projects to the full to ensure energy efficiency is a key priority of Europe's energy strategy for 2011-2020
In a report intended to contribute to a forthcoming European Commission paper on energy strategy priorities for 2011-2020, MEP members of the Energy Commission said that the EU should better exploit energy efficiency, as a cost-effective way to cut energy dependency, combat climate change, create jobs and counteract increases in energy bills.
The report also says that the future strategy should seek to fulfil the aims of a fully-functioning single energy market, security of supply, and moving towards a low-carbon energy system.
MEPs call on the Commission and Member States to step up work on EU southern gas corridor projects and especially the Nabucco Asia to Europe gas pipeline, to promote Mediterranean Solar Plan projects DESERTEC (clean power from deserts) and TRANSGREEN (low carbon and renewable energy networks) and also to promote regional projects such as the “Mediterranean Ring” (grid interconnection) and the “Baltic Interconnection Project”.
The report, drafted by Lena Barbara Kolarska-Bobinska (EPP, PL) and approved in committee with 42 votes in favour, 3 against and 4 abstentions, will be put to a plenary vote at the end of November.
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