Columnists: Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director

Published on: 28 Sep 2021

Technical Assistance: the wealth-enabler for buildings

With most of the National Recovery Plans approved this summer, attention is turning to the core business at hand: spending the money fast, and properly on building renovations. Technical Assistance will be crucial in driving up the rate and depth of renovations across the EU, making sure we leave no one behind. 

‘Want to retrofit hundreds of thousands of buildings but dont know where to start? Need help setting up project workflows? Then you NEED technical assistance. Available now from all good European Commission directorates’. 

The EU does not often run advertisements like the entirely fictional one in the previous paragraph. Maybe it should.

In the coming years, hundreds of billions of euro will be on offer, especially through the EU’s Recovery Fund. But as always with EU funds, blank cheques are not simply handed out. Project pitches have to be made, necessary hoops have to be jumped through and proper due diligence done. And with the Recovery Funds in particular, the money will have to be committed fast – by 2023 latest.

Therein often lies the problem. For energy renovation in particular, EU Member States have been leaving money on the table, simply because they are ill-equipped to apply for it properly. We risk a situation where money from the Recovery Fund goes to waste, despite the ‘Renovation Wave’ being identified as Flagship Programme by the Commission.

This might be because of a lack of expertise in different ministries, a lack of experience in applying for funding in certain sectors or even linguistic barriers. Technical Assistance essentially coaches project applicants in how best to realise their ambitions.

As the old parable goes: Give a man to fish and hell eat for a day; teach him to fish and hell eat for a lifetime.”

Thats exactly what Technical Assistance is: a wealth-enabler for buildings.

Scale of the challenge

Given the scale of the challenge set by the EUs energy efficiency, renewables and overall emissions targets, Technical Assistance is going to be a necessary outlay for project planners. Decarbonising the economy is going to be a work in progress up to and beyond 2050, when the EU plans to be absorbing as many emissions as it produces. Hitting the net-zero goal will mean spending hundreds of billions of euro – and spending them well – every year.

The most pressing opportunity comes in the form of the pandemic Recovery Fund plans, which most governments submitted to the Commission by end of April 2021 to tap into €750 billion in grants and loans.

Those plans had to be well-formulated to unlock the money, especially the loans – and particularly given the tough politicking that erupted between Member States when the Recovery Fund was being negotiated. The level of scrutiny will be high, we hope, to ensure that the money allocated in the plans for building renovations actually delivers the stated multiple benefits for all. For this too, Technical Assistance will be key.

Where to find Technical Assistance

The Czech National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) is among the good examples of countries who have understood the multiple benefits of energy renovation, but are also acutely aware of the implementation challenges on the ground.  Consequently, a good chunk of money is allocated to Technical Assistance for building renovations.

The Croatian NRRP is another example where at least 80 public employees are to be specifically trained to help on energy efficiency and post-earthquake reconstruction, through One-Stop-Shops.

More information about how energy renovation (and aspects such as Technical Assistance) are prioritised in the NRRP’s will be released in the Renovate Europe/E3G Study expected at Renovate Europe Day (REDay2021) on 13th October. 

The European Commission’s newly formed DG REFORM is also making extra help available to support building renovations with its enlarged €1 billion budget aimed at helping EU countries to design and carry out structural reforms. This could also significantly improve the absorption rates of EU funding across the Member States.

And unlike DG REGIO’s Structural Funds Assistance or the EIB’s technical Advisory HUB, DG REFORM’s support requires no co-financing, which should significantly facilitate uptake by Member States who meet the annual 31stOctober deadline to apply. (See REC one-page guide on applying for Technical Support)

Introducing MEPS will drive change, but support is needed

Technical Assistance has a crucial role to play in helping to spend EU money properly on building renovations, but also in ensuring it reaches all those who need it. 

This will be especially important in the context of the upcoming EPBD Revision, where an enabling framework must be introduced to accompany the EPBD in general, and the roll-out of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) in particular. 

The expected introduction of MEPS in the EPBD will drive the step-change in the rate and depth of energy renovations needed to meet the agreed EU climate-neutrality goals. But technical support will be essential to ensure social protection for the more vulnerable as the MEPS are rolled out. 

With the EU recovery money flowing and the EPBD set for revision this autumn, Technical Assistance must be put centre stage.  Without support, there is little chance that all the money on offer will actually make it into the energy renovation projects so sorely needed by society.

Learn more about Technical Assistance for energy renovation by visiting the Renovate Europe website here

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Adrian Joyce