EU cuts deal on using crisis funds for energy efficiency

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EU lawmakers have agreed to free up €146 million from uncommitted funds from the European Energy Recovery Plan to finance energy efficiency and renewables projects, MEPs said.

The deal was reached between Parliament negotiators and the Belgian EU Presidency on Tuesday afternoon (19 October). It creates a fund managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and German bank KFW, which can finance projects including building renovations that include renewable or energy efficiency solutions, grid-connected decentralised renewable energy generation, clean public transport, electricity storage solutions, smart metering and smart grids.

"Parliament has fought hard to make a maximum amount of money available for investments in energy-efficient projects. In times of financial constraint, Europe should work together to make our way of life cheaper and more sustainable," said MEP Lena EK (Sweden, ALDE), who was a shadow rapporteur on the file.

The Parliament's industry committee last week voted to use €115 million, or all the money available from the recovery funds once the exact amount is known, for renewable and efficiency projects. The €146 million agreed between member states and MEPs is thus higher but excludes the option to raise the sum should more money turn out to be available.

"It is largely thanks to the opposition of five member states - Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Austria - that the final amount is so low," said Green MEP Claude Turmes (Luxembourg). "It now seems that hundreds of millions of euro, which could have been immediately channelled towards towns and regions of Europe to reduce their energy bills and their climate change impact, will now go unused."

However, a list of projects signed but not yet committed, released by the European Commission only a couple of weeks ago, shows that the amount of money that has not been committed could in reality reach over €800 million, Turmes said.

He argued that it is highly unlikely all the money will be signed off by 31 December and more could become available from the six CCS projects chosen for recovery funding as investors are becoming jittery about cost overruns.

Any money above to what is now being made available for renewables and energy efficiency projects would most likely be returned to member states' empty coffers in the midst of austerity measures. Turmes also suggested that they could provide a backdoor for the Commission and France, supported by the UK and Germany, to find funding for the France-based ITER international nuclear fusion project, which has run into a funding crisis.

The Parliament's industry committee is scheduled to endorse the agreement on 26 October. The full plenary will vote on it in November.

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