The cities and regions have a new challenge in front of them but are all of them ready to face it ? This was also the discussion taking place at a Covenant of Mayors capacity building workshop organised by Energy Cities an its member Citenergo in Bratislava, Slovakia on 10 November 2015.
Not all Slovak cities are ready to commit. They say they lack the access to energy data, human capacities and financial resources for investments. Eurostat rules accounting the EPC contracts as a debt for local authority and rigid national debt regulations not accepting energy efficiency investments as ‚good investments‘ for which some flexibility could be accorded is another barrier. However, very often it is mainly political will that is missing – sustainable energy and climate protection are not the topics politicians put high on their agenda and it is completely missing in electoral programmes at all levels.
Energy Cities wanted to motivate and encourage Slovak cities and regions to take on this new committment, show how it can be achieved and point out the benefits of sustainable energy projects.
Three front-running European cities that are already on the track - Vienna, Zagreb and Bielsko Biala – were invited to share their outstanding experiences and results in the fields of energy management, energy renovation of public buildings and public lighting, sustainable urban transport and last but not least development of energy and climate strategies and action plans. These cities have been systematically implementing their ambitious energy and climate protection policies for decades now.
Zagreb takes ambitious measures in the field of refurbishment of public buildings and outdoor lighting via EPC, using the 1.8 M EUR EU grant from the Intelligent Energy Europe programme (Project Development Assistance) to prepare the 30 M EUR investment project (incl. 87 buildings, 3,000 lamps). Money for investments themselves will come from the city own budget (30%), loans (35%) and European Structural and Investment Funds (35%).
Bielsko Biala set up its energy management back in 1991 – a real pioneer in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2007-2011 the city implemented a grant programme for citizens who were ready to replace their coal boilers with renewable energy technologies. 1,500 boilers were replaced. City also motivates and educates citizens and local actors : a private investor built a new power plant that reaches 90% efficiency and thousands of citizens participated in the campaigns such as ENGAGE or „Good energy music festival“ and more.
Vienna, on the basis of its experience with the city Climate Plan gave very useful recommendations to Slovak cities. First, it is very important to make a feasibility study of future climate mitigation/adaptation measures and make a hit list of the most promising measures in terms of reduction effects. The next step is to form a team who will do the work. In Vienna, the Climate Department is advising to all other departments who actually implement the projects wihtin their own budgets. Climate issues are thus mainstreamed to all city investments. Then the resources for the implementation of the measures in terms of personal staff and budget are defined and reponsibilities assigned. It is also important that you define how to monitor the progress of the measures. Vienna also looks at the impact of the Climate Plan at local economy which is an indicator of high intrerest for local politicians.
Two key success factors of local sustainable energy policy were highlighted by all three cities : dedicated staff and awareness raising and education of citizens and local actors. These are crucial for the cities who want to engage in true energy transition process.
Energy Cities hopes that also thanks to this exchange of experiences, more Slovak cities will commit to the new Covenant objectives and implement Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans !
photos : Energy Cities, Gaj777 - Fotopolska.eu via Wikimedia Commons, Omnidoom 999 CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons, Kiban CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons