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Europe launches ELENA facility to support renewable energy projects

The European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have launched an initiative to help regional authorities invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.

The European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) facility will provide technical assistance that will allow the projects to attract outside finance. ELENA will receive €15 million for its first year of operation from the Intelligent Energy-Europe (IEE) programme, and its support will cover some of the costs for technical support that is necessary to prepare and implement feasibility and market studies, business plans, energy audits and similar procedures.

Many cities and regions in Europe have started to prepare or are initiating large proposals for renewable energy and energy efficiency, to tackle the challenges of energy and climate change. However, most are still at the conceptual stage and their implementation is proving difficult because many medium to small cites do not have the technical capacity to develop large programmes in this area, the facility explains.

ELENA will assist public entities to solve problems by offering specific support for the implementation of investment programmes and projects, such as retrofitting of buildings, district heating and cooling networks, or environmentally-friendly transport. Urban areas consume 70% of the EU’s energy, “yet the potential for sustainable energy-related investments remains largely untapped.”

“With ELENA, we are launching another practical instrument aiming at unlocking the sustainable energy investment potential in European regions and cities,” explains energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs. “With more than 1,000 cities now having joined the Covenant of Mayors, this facility can help tackle the effects of the financial crisis at the best place, the local level, contributing to growth and jobs.”

“We see a large potential for energy efficiency in Europe and are receiving an increasing number of requests for finance,” adds EIB president Philippe Maystadt. “This year, we expect to lend more than €1 billion for energy efficiency-related projects throughout the European Union. Through ELENA, we will be able to offer additional support to cities and regions, helping to accelerate investments and thus contributing to the success of the EU's 20-20-20 goals.”

Projects will be assessed by engineers and economists at the EIB, the bank of EU member states, and the assistance will facilitate access to EIB finance or finance from another bank. Technical assistance, supported by the ELENA facility, can be provided to local authorities or a public body from countries participating in the IEE.

ELENA will “ensure that public administrations in Europe have access to specialist financing and technical skills to deliver large scale investment programmes in energy efficiency and renewable technologies that will contribute to fighting climate change and to the creation of much-needed new jobs,” says economic commissioner Joaquín Almunia.

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