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Local clean energy transition: local authorities as drivers for a decarbonised Europe

Local and regional authorities have a key role in achieving the EU Green Deal objectives and contribute to the reduction of climate emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Sustainable energy actions at local level are decisive to implement the ambitious European energy and climate policies.

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To achieve further energy savings, the European Commission has revised the Energy Efficiency Directive, recognising the leading and exemplary role of public bodies and introducing an annual energy consumption reduction target of 1.9 % for the public sector as a whole. The amended Renewable Energy Directive has increased the EU’s binding renewable target for 2030 to a minimum of 42.5 %, up from the previous 32 % target. In addition, the updated Energy Performance of Buildings Directive will boost efforts to decarbonise buildings across the EU. As the level of governance that is closest to citizens, local and regional authorities play a pivotal role in the clean energy transition. For the move to a carbon-neutral society to be sustainable and inclusive, local actors are key agents of change and must have the knowledge and resources to reduce emissions and implement sustainable energy solutions.

Support for local and regional authorities

Several initiatives and funding opportunities exist at the European level to help local and regional authorities achieve their clean energy transition goals and provide more sustainable services for their citizens. The LIFE Clean Energy Transition programme (2021-2027) provides funding for a wide range of activities leading towards an energy-efficient, renewable energy-based, climate-neutral and resilient economy. The Smart Cities Marketplace aims to speed up the green transition of cities in Europe by improving citizens’ quality of life, increasing their competitiveness and ensuring partnership with other European initiatives focused on the urban level. The Cities Mission selected 112 cities to co-create Climate City Contracts with local stakeholders and citizens, which include an overall plan for climate neutrality across all sectors such as energy, buildings, waste management and transport, together with related investment plans. These initiatives and many others, involve working on long-term energy planning, deep capacity building, support to the EU Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (CoM), mobilising investment, alleviating energy poverty, changing markets and regulations, and much more. The 12 projects in this Results Pack highlight activities that support shorter-term implementation as well as long-term goals and ambitions for the clean energy transition. Their aim is to build capacity of cities and regions on planning and implementation, accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency measures and deployment of clean energy solutions, and overall scale-up reduction of CO2 emissions at the local level.

Twelve initiatives with benefits at the local and regional levels

The ENERGee Watch project developed a peer-to-peer learning programme to enable regional and local authorities to define, monitor and verify their sustainable actions. PATH2LC created learning networks that enable local authorities to work together towards low-carbon municipalities. EUROPA, FITHOME, Hiross4All, I-HEROS and RenoHub developed innovative local one-stop-shop solutions to support homeowners retrofitting their homes. They developed integrated home renovation services, providing homeowners access to information, expertise and tools for the renovation process. Financial investment plays a major role in the green transition. Therefore, EUFC facilitated the development of investment programmes in municipalities. DistrictEES increased the availability of financing sources to accelerate uptake of energy efficiency renovation services. ActionHeat enabled municipalities to expand heating and cooling planning and implementation throughout Europe. The EXCITE project piloted the European Energy Award in 26 municipalities in central and eastern Europe. Finally, REFEREE developed an online decision-support tool for use at national and municipal levels to quantify the benefits of energy efficiency.