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The Good, the Bad and the Grey of EU-funded Investments

Covering the EU’s 2021-2027 programming period, the database provides information on over 100 projects across various categories, including energy efficiency, energy communities, energy poverty and biodiversity. These projects are classified as positive, negative, or grey based on whether their environmental impacts are beneficial, harmful or a mixture of both.

CEE Bankwatch data base: Example of mediocrely invested EU funds, Photo: ©CEE Bankwatch Network

Updated on a regular basis, the database is a valuable resource for policymakers seeking to replicate environmentally sustainable investments while avoiding those that are detrimental to the environment. With infographics highlighting best practices across the four categories, the database serves as a helpful guide for those interested in understanding how EU funds can be best used to support Europe’s green transition.

CEE Bankwatch data base: Example of well invested EU funds, Photo: ©CEE Bankwatch Network

Since its launch, the database has proved as an important source of information during advocacy meetings at the EU and national level, facilitating research and communication on both successful and problematic projects. As the implementation phase of the EU’s long-term budget begins, it is hoped that the database will shape policy debates across Europe and help decisionmakers choose the investments needed to achieve climate neutrality in the EU by 2050.

International Stakeholders Meet in Tata to Discuss Policy and Action on Peatlands

Peatlands have the potential to be our allies in both climate change mitigation and adaptation while providing multiple other essential ecosystem services, as well. The European Climate Initiative (EUKI)-supported project, as part of which CEEweb’s workshop was organised, aims to enhance these services and benefits through an improved pan-European collaboration for the conservation and restoration of peatlands. The workshop brought together policy experts, practitioners, civil society representatives and other interested stakeholders for a full-day opportunity to learn and build capacities on effective policy responses for healthy European peatlands.

The day began with a presentation on the EUKI Peatlands project itself, followed by presentations by experts on the condition of peatlands across Europe, as well as the challenges and opportunities of their management. A panel discussion and a small-group interactive session were meant to initiate a constructive discussion between attendees and experts. The event was closed with a field trip to an educational trail in the Fényes Springs of Tata, providing an overview of the unique biodiversity of peatlands and their current management.

The workshop was opened by Csaba Mezei, CEEweb’s General Secretary, who welcomed the participants on behalf of the organisers. József Michl, mayor of Tata, and Balázs Rigó, deputy mayor of Tata. Then welcomed the participants to the conference room of the ecotourism centre located directly on the shore of the Old Lake of Tata, giving a short history of the town and how the municipality takes pride in and action on its precious local wetland, also a Ramsar site.

Opening of the workshop, Photo: ©CEEweb for Biodiversity

The EUKI Peatlands project was introduced by the Project Officer, Marina Škunca, on behalf of Eurosite – the European Land Conservation Network, lead partner of the project, highlighting the project’s main goals, target groups and partners. She provided details of the context and objectives of the project, emphasising the need for cooperation between national governments and other stakeholders to achieve a greater number of protected/restored peatlands in Europe. Orsolya Nyárai, Agricultural Policy Officer at CEEweb gave a presentation on the role of CEEweb in the project. We aim to support national peatland strategies by critically assessing them, collecting good practices and providing recommendations and guidance to national governments.

Dr László Jánossy, Biologist, Environmental Engineer presented the importance of peatlands and their conservation value while highlighting the effect of climate change on these sensitive ecosystems. He also introduced some preliminary results of the peatland policy assessment in selected Central and Eastern European countries by showing the strengths and weaknesses of peatland strategies and other relevant policies across this region.

Moritz Kaiser, Scientific Staff at the Michael Succow Foundation, Partner in the Greifswald Mire Centre, presented the distribution and state of peatlands globally with a focus on Central and Eastern European countries. The presentation covered the unequal distribution of peatlands, while it also highlighted the issue of greenhouse gas emissions as a result of drained peatlands in Europe. The lack of or outdated nature of data on the status and conditions of peatlands in Europe was pointed out as a regular weakness for effective peatland restoration.

EUKI project "Building a European Peatlands Alliance" held it's first workshop on policy and action on European peatlands.
Facilitating discussing between attendees and experts, Photo: ©CEEweb for Biodiversity

The individual presentations were followed by a Q&A session, enabling an inspiring discussion between attendees and experts, mainly covering the financing issues of peatland restoration and the interlinkages of the European Peatlands Initiative (EPI) and the EUKI Peatlands project.

In the afternoon, the presentations were focused on various aspects of peatland protection and management in Hungary and Estonia. Konrád Lájer, PhD, explained the state of Hungarian mires and emphasised that nowadays, almost all remaining mires are located in national parks. Mati Ilomets, Head of the Mires Research Group of Tallinn University presented the challenges and opportunities of sustainably managing peatlands in Estonia. With two-thirds of peatlands being degraded in some way, the country is currently working on restoring drained peatlands by creating dams and blocking drainage ditches in order to raise the water table in peatlands. He emphasised that long-term monitoring is needed for peatland restoration and that raising the water level is just the first step in restoring peatlands but is not sufficient alone.

Following the presentations, a panel discussion was facilitated by Orsolya Nyárai. Three peatland experts were involved: Konrád Lájer, Moritz Kaiser and Mati Ilomets. The discussion addressed several topics related to national peatland policies, specific areas in need of more research, the availability of peatland maps and data systems, as well as the challenges in the way of securing funding and effective policy implementation.

An interactive session followed on national peatland action and policy. Attendees engaged in small-group discussions, exchanging views and suggestions on the current challenges faced by their own countries’ peatland policies, and recommending potential actions to address them.

Field trip to the Tata Fényes Springs, Photo: ©CEEweb for Biodiversity

The second part of the afternoon was reserved for a field trip to the Tata Fényes Springs. First, Gábor Ballabás, PhD., geographer introduced the main characteristics of the site. He also highlighted the town’s geological history leading to the springs’ emergence. The field trip was led by Ferenc Márkus, a conservation ecologist, and Gábor Ballabás.

The workshop proved useful in introducing the EUKI Peatlands project while gathering constructive feedback and input from the representatives of multiple stakeholder groups. The main takeaway message of the workshop was that cooperation between governments and stakeholders on peatland restoration needs to be improved across Europe as well as actions to update maps, and data and ensure long-term monitoring needs to be put in place for the successful protection and restoration of peatlands.

A webinar later this year will be organised by CEEweb in order to share the results and main findings of the assessment of Central and Eastern European peatland strategies. In 2024, a second multi-stakeholder workshop will follow, providing further opportunity and more targeted guidance to national stakeholders for improved peatland policies.

Impressions of Hungarian peatlands, find more on CEEweb for Biodiversity’s website.

MENERGERS Study Trip: Bulgarian Representatives Visiting Germany

The Bulgarian municipalities were represented by specialised experts from the administrations of Svilengrad (also the Mayor of Svilengrad), Russe and Sapareva Banya. Also, the representatives of the Bulgarian project partners NTEF (National Trust Ecofund) and SOFENA Energy Agency joined. The study visit was organised and hosted by the Germann project partner UfU (Independent institute for environmental issues in Berlin). The study visit achieved its objectives by contributing significantly to the establishment of the experts’ team of the project.

“The Study Visit was a great success, very useful for our delegation. It was also a good chance to meet people from other Energy Agencies, sharing experiences and strategical approaches on Energy Management at local, regional and national level.” – Kamelia Georgieva, International and Pilot Programs Manager at NTEF

On the first day, in Magdeburg at the State Energy Agency Saxony-Anhalt (LENA), they learned about how to identified the needs of energy management in the municipalities, how to establishe the protocols for making decisions based on new knowledge and information analysis. LENA is an energy management agency established in 2012 by the government of Saxony-Anhalt with 100% funding from the federal state, it employs 15 people, has an annual budget of 2.2 million euros and it serves 130,000 businesses in the state and 230 municipalities. It covers a population of 21 million people and they lay a special focus on communication and stakeholder work activities.

Visiting the LENA headquarter in Magdeburg, Photo: ©National Trust Ecofund
Group picture in front of The Green Citadel in Magdeburg, Photo: ©National Trust Ecofund

Next, they met with UfU and found out more about the development of passive building construction standards, done together with the Institute for Passive Buildings. The aspiration is to build buildings where energy consumption is below 15kW/h per square meter. Experience was shared in communicating with investors who propose to raise standards and achieve lower energy consumption. The issue of how electricity consumption for lighting and heating can be accounted for separately was discussed. Another discussion was held among the participants of the study trip on the upcoming steps to develop a model for the energy manager services in the Bulgarian municipalities.

Meeting with the German project partner UfU, Photo: ©National Trust Ecofund
Meeting with the mayor of Svilengrad and Feldheim, Photo: ©National Trust Ecofund

A very exciting experience was presented to the participants when they visited the Forum for New Energies Feldheim. Feldheim, a small settlement nearby Berlin, is now an energy independent village, but such a process takes time. They started in 1995 with an analysis of the resources: a hilly area (there is wind), there are forests (for biomass) and there is a lot of sun. It was not started as an ecological project, but to save themselves from poverty. Truth is the two things are related. Now, the energy produced there is enough for 55,000 households, yet Feldheim only inhabits 130 citizens. At the heart of the policy that guides them is the decentralisation of energy production. Most important in the process has been the involvement of local residents and all local stakeholders. The basis of the new processes was keeping the form of cooperation from the GDR, adding complete transparency and trust in the villagers’ association itself.

Visiting the the biomass instalation in Feldheim, Photo: ©National Trust Ecofund
Group picture in the forum of New energies in Feldheim, Photo: ©National Trust Ecofund

The participants were impressed by the balance between energy management and the participation of people and institutions, and also very pleased to learn about new practical ideas which are applicable back home in Bulgaria.

Humus per la Biosfera – Hedges for Climate and Species Protection

Hedges are in many ways beneficial elements in the landscape: they provide food, nesting sites and hiding places for birds, insects and small mammals. For the soil, especially on slopes, they are an important protection against erosion by wind and water. Hedges enrich soil life with their root systems and store the carbon previously absorbed from the air in the soil through dying roots; this input of organic material under the soil is favoured by regular hedge pruning. It is assumed that the root mass adapts to the above-ground greenery. The growing humus content favours the climate and the water balance.

Giacche Verdi employee Simone Marullo instructs volunteers and students
during hedge plantation, Photos: ©Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung

In the spring of 2023, we started planting hedges on one of our trial fields near Bronte: we fixed the terrace edges of the olive grove on a slope over a length of about 800 metres. With the active support of international volunteers and interns, we planted indigenous aromatic plants, bushes and trees; the latter partially undersown with legumes.

Laurel and legume undersowing Chickpea with a water-saving drip irrigation
tube from the new pond, Photos: ©Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung

Green(ing) H2: National & EU Workshops

EU Workshop – From Hydrogen Hype to Hard Reality: Realistic Hydrogen Demand and Supply Volumes and its Implications on the EU Hydrogen Economy

To critically examine the prevailing discourse and comprehensively investigate the fundamental role of hydrogen in attaining a sustainable and carbon-neutral future, the EUKI funded project Green(ing) H2, hosted its 2nd EU-level webinar, “From Hydrogen Hype to Hard Reality: Realistic Hydrogen Demand, Supply Volumes and its Implications on the EU Hydrogen Economy”.

The webinar was attended by over 120 participants and presented Bruegel’s study, commissioned by the projects consortium, titled “Analysis of Green Hydrogen Strategies for Germany, Poland and Portugal” (available at Green(ing) H2 ), followed by a lively debate amongst the invited panellists: Marta Lovisolo (Bellona), Ewa Mazur (RWE), and Ben McWilliams (Bruegel) over the main topics:

  • What are possible strategies and policies to prioritise hydrogen application in sectors to achieve highest climate impacts?
  • What are realistic hydrogen demands for the EU and are current and planned EU regulations able to deliver these demands?
EU Workshop, Photo: ©ZERO.ong

The debate focused on the priority sectors for hydrogen and identified some of the bottlenecks hindering hydrogen production and use, the key insights of this session were:

  • Bruegel’s study emphasised the contrast between high expectations for hydrogen production in Europe and the non-corresponding demand.
  • The importance of aligning the Industrial Strategy with the Hydrogen Strategy.
  • Limited investor confidence in advancing hydrogen projects has led to numerous proposals, yet only a handful of them have managed to secure final investment decisions.
  • The absence of directives that promote the use of hydrogen in priority sectors.
  • An overall consensus regarding the significance of hydrogen for the energy transition and the need for collaborative efforts to translate plans into tangible reality but also a recognition that hydrogen is not a one-size-fits-all solution and, ultimately, a balanced tailored approach will be key to achieving an effective, sustainable, and decarbonised energy future

Watch the full recording below and download all presentation slides here.

EU-level webinar, “From Hydrogen Hype to Hard Reality: Realistic Hydrogen Demand, Supply Volumes and its Implications on the EU Hydrogen Economy”, ©ZERO.ong

German National Workshop – How do we align the planning of hydrogen infrastructure in Germany with the goal of climate-neutrality

The debate about possible fields of application for hydrogen in Germany is in full swing. This is despite the fact that climate-neutral hydrogen will only be available in limited quantities until well into the 2030s and probably beyond, especially in Germany and Europe. In addition, an infrastructure for transporting hydrogen in Germany and Europe does not yet exist and even the regulatory and legal framework for its planning has not yet been defined.

Against this background, we pose the key question of: how can the planning of hydrogen infrastructure in Germany be aligned with the goal of climate neutrality?

In cooperation with Germanwatch e.V. and in a circle of other civil society organisations, we want to address these questions, among others, in a workshop format:

  • What principles and guidelines should hydrogen infrastructure planning follow?
  • What are the application areas for hydrogen that need to be prioritised and how does this prioritisation need to be considered in infrastructure planning?
  • How should civil society and other actors be involved i n planning to ensure these principles?
  • What role can or must state actors play in planning or financing infrastructure?
  • What can we learn from infrastructure planning for electricity and natural gas, and how should these be blended with hydrogen infrastructure planning?

See the full agenda here.

Portuguese National Workshop – A critical look at the role of hydrogen in the energy transition

Portuguese National Workshop, ©ZERO.ong

Green hydrogen has emerged as the infallible solution for the decarbonisation of the energy sector and mobility, as an alternative to fossil fuels, however, and given that it is a “hot” topic on the national but also global agenda, it is necessary to reflect on the implications, opportunities and associated challenges.

For this analysis, ZERO hosted a hybrid webinar, an in-person workshop and organised a visit to a hydrogen plant production under the theme: “A critical look at the role of hydrogen in the energy transition” with almost 100 on- and offline attendees in total. See the full agenda here.

Portuguese National Workshop, Photos: ©ZERO.ong

ZERO brought together experts from industry, research and civil society to critically analyse the different possibilities for green hydrogen in Portuguese industries, taking into account the national hydrogen strategy and trying to answer questions such as: How should we prioritise the production and use of green hydrogen? And what are the downsides of exporting?

Polish National Workshop – Hydrogen Economy in the Update of Polish Strategic Documents

Poland is currently updating key strategic documents, including the National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP) and the Energy Policy of Poland until 2040. Civil society stakeholders are closely watching the progress, particularly regarding the faster adoption of renewables. However, the decarbonisation of the Polish economy involves broader changes in the industry, transport, and heating sectors, especially given the importance of reducing dependence on imported natural gas due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The focus now turns to the hydrogen economy, which has gained prominence in European policymaking. Revised Polish energy strategies ought to reflect these developments. In order to facilitate the inclusion of hydrogen in the Polish decarbonisation roadmap, Instrat Foundation organised an in-person workshop in Warsaw, titled: “Hydrogen Economy in the Update of Polish Strategic Documents”. It precisely aimed to update participants on recent developments, share Instrat’s insights on hydrogen policies, and gather perspectives from various organisations involved in hydrogen-related activities.

Polish National Workshop, Photos: ©ZERO.ong

The workshop attended by 14 participants had three sections: 

1. European policy developments;

2. The current state of Polish hydrogen plans and legislation;

3. The potential role of hydrogen in the updated NECP.

The main key takeaways were:

– Poland should set more ambitious and precise decarbonisation targets for the industry, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and decreasing reliance on imported fossil fuels. Hydrogen will play a significant role in this over the medium to long term.

– Poland should establish a position on global hydrogen trade to enhance energy security and guide early investment decisions, considering geopolitical and technological uncertainties.

– Government subsidies for the hydrogen economy should be prioritised, based on critical analysis and consultations with civil society. Controversial plans, like supporting hydrogen in residential heating or a broad rollout of hydrogen-based vehicles, should be reconsidered. Instead, no-regret uses of low-carbon hydrogen, for example as a chemical feedstock, ought to be prioritised.

– Comprehensive energy system modelling with clear pricing and technological assumptions is essential to understand hydrogen’s role in a low-carbon economy. Qualitative declarations about expanded potential for hydrogen, included in the preliminary forecast scenario published in June 2023, should be now supplemented with in-depth quantitative analysis.

– Civil society input on the renewable hydrogen economy faces challenges due to early-stage deployment and business interests dominating discussions. Additional research and knowledge-sharing activities can promote a more balanced public debate.

The inputs gathered will serve as valuable information for guiding additional Instrat endeavours connected to scenarios concerning the energy transition in Poland, including active participation in public consultations once the draft documents have been released.

All workshops and findings of the Green(ing) H2 project feed into a set of Guidelines and a Policy Brief for policymakers and stakeholders. For more information have a look at the project page below.

Edaphic-Bloom Danube – Final Meeting

In the Final Meeting, the project’s deliverables were presented: The Master Plan for the decarbonisation of the Danube Floodplain and the Danube Delta, the Guide to good practices in the project area, the Guide for the analysis of GHG emissions at the level of organic soils for decision-making by the authorities, the energy performance map of several thousand buildings in Tulcea county (http://energy.ddni.ro/), the online platform for disseminating the results of the 3D Initiative (Decarbonisation of the Danube Delta – https://edaphic-bloom.eu/ – in the process of completion), the development stage of the Cluster “3D Edaphic-BLOOM Danube“.

Fina Meeting of the project, Photo: ©Edaphic-Bloom Danube

The involvement of the interested parties in the project area was relevant – 50 representatives from the local, regional and national authorities, the academic environment and the private environment, who are among the beneficiaries of the project, participated.

6 Adhesions to the Cluster were signed (authorities and the private sector – farmers and builders).

Summer School for Youth: Interdisciplinary Environment for Developing Transport-Spatial Solutions in Šibenik

The aim of ODRAZ’s summer school was to provide young individuals with the opportunity for extracurricular education and work in small interdisciplinary groups on proposed transport-spatial topics or challenges defined in collaboration with the City of Šibenik. The emphasis was on transport-spatial planning and participatory processes in urban planning. According to the participants’ feedback, the interdisciplinary approach, main aspect of the school, proved to be the most significant one.

The summer school began with the introductory lectures by the mentors, which covered methodological frameworks to assist the participants throughout the school, examples of good practices in multimodal terminals, green bus stops, green buildings, the importance of participation in spatial planning, and an introduction to Placemaking and the Place Game tool. Subsequently, the participants were divided into interdisciplinary teams and selected their respective topics.

The topics the participants worked on were as follows:

  1. The Coast as a Space for Meetings and Living
  2. Ferry Port – The Green Heart of a Multimodal Terminal
  3. Spatial Interventions for Climate Sustainability in Mobility – Stjepan Radić Street
  4. Streets for People – Kamenarska Street
  5. Promoting Sustainable Mobility among Students and Youth in Šibenik

CLIMASUM Summer School, Photo: ©CLIMASUM

CLIMASUM Summer School, Photo: ©CLIMASUM

CLIMASUM Summer School, Photo: ©CLIMASUM

On the second day, each group defined their methodology and work plan, including field visits and conducting questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with citizens. The quality of the work plan contributed to the development of high-quality solutions. The rest of the day was spent by the participants working in their groups, gathering necessary literature and data, and preparing for the field visits. At the end of the day, the participants took part in a professional tour of Šibenik.

On the third and fourth days, the participants refined their ideas and improved their solutions. They then presented their progress and proposed solutions, receiving feedback and advice from mentors. After reviewing the solutions and suggestions, the young participants prepared their presentations and conceptual ideas, which they presented on Friday, July 21, during the roundtable discussion.

Throughout the school, the importance of participatory processes in urban planning was emphasized, aiming to ensure that decisions and solutions align with citizens’ needs and are ultimately accepted. Additionally, there was a focus on developing solutions that contribute to the climate resilience of Mediterranean cities by reducing the impact of heatwaves and preventing heat islands, as well as achieving climate neutrality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Not only did the participants learn during the summer school, but their presentations and solutions can also serve as learning material. They offer insights into the possibilities of replicating these solutions in other Mediterranean cities, as well as the specific advantages such solutions offer for Šibenik.

CLIMASUM Summer School, Photo: ©CLIMASUM

One of the most important conclusions from the school is that in the planning of public spaces, we are not creating new spaces for people, but rather returning them to the people by considering the potential of that space and emphasizing the active involvement of the local community.

Some of the highlighted benefits of such solutions during the summer school were:

  • Improved quality of life for Šibenik residents
  • Transformation of the city into a people-oriented place
  • Encouragement of public transport use and active mobility
  • Enhanced health and general well-being
  • Revitalization of neighborhoods
  • Reduction of the impact of heatwaves and heat islands
  • Reduced impact of tourism seasonality
  • Climate resilience and sustainability
  • The importance of participatory and interdisciplinary approaches
  • Promotion of Šibenik as a climate-neutral city

The “Mayors Talk” Forum Discusses Sustainable Energy Innovation in Bulgaria

The central theme of the forum was tools for implementing sustainable energy innovations, as well as the integrated national plan for energy and climate. The first day of the event focused on the lessons learned from the energy crisis and the opportunities for optimising the many related processes. The Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Angelina Boneva, shared that local authorities are the real agents of transformation and municipalities are always at the forefront to face the increasingly frequent economic and energy crises. According to Deputy Minister Boneva, the dialogue on multi-level governance has not yet taken place, and clear responsibilities and tools need to be defined for local authorities to implement more and better projects.

Tania Hristova, Mayor of Gabrovo, appealed to local authorities “to be bold and go beyond the standards, to be ambitious, technological and innovative, to look for complex solutions and new approaches to the new programmes”. She highlighted the key role municipalities play in achieving national objectives. Local authorities therefore insist on long-term technical assistance for regional development, renovation and renewable energy programmes. Among the speakers there was also the Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Agency, Ivaylo Aleksiev, who stressed the necessity for sound financing of energy efficiency policies and projects given the limited public resources. Dragomir Tzanev, Executive Director of EnEffect, mentioned that the campaigning nature of the programmes and the channelling of huge public resources to a limited number of beneficiaries can lead to market distortion and unfair consulting and construction practices.

The Mayors Talk Forum, Photo: ©EnEffect

The second day of the meeting continued with presentations of successful local practices and challenges in the field of energy efficiency in the context of the European Year of Skills. A representative from the municipality of Ѐspoo (Finland) presented interesting local sustainable practices and building renovation, and a representative from Haarlem (the Netherlands), talked about innovation public procurement. Participants from Energy Cities, Eurocities and REScoop.eu complemented the discussions with their knowledge and experience in the field of sustainable energy. The energy cooperative initiative of Gabrovo Municipality, which is expected to start this autumn, was presented, as well as a project to renovate the swimming pool of Pavlikeni Municipality, winner of the annual EcoEnergy competition. Of particular interest was the discussion about the gaps in the education system and the difficulties to find qualified staff to implement renovation projects, which was reported as a huge problem both locally and nationally.

The event concluded with the announcement of this year’s EcoEnergy competition. The Renocally project (funded by EUKI) was presented as well as a proposal for the awarded municipalities (Pavlikeni, Gabrovo, Burgas, Smiadovo, Dobrich and Krushari) to do 10 energy audits with building renovation roadmaps, and help them develop financial plans for building renovation. Municipalities warmly welcomed the initiative and, as next step, they will propose buildings to implement the building renovation passports.

CLIMASUM Study Tour to Slovenia: From Green Vision to International Recognition

Diversifying the Journey: A Taste of Graz

The study trip wasn’t just dedicated to Slovenian cities – we took the opportunity to diversify the train ride by enriching our experience in another city and starting our study trip with a short stop in Graz, Austria. Hosted by the City of Graz’s Transport Planning Department, we discovered their impressive pedestrian and cycling infrastructure initiatives. With a cycling modal split of 20.3% and plans to invest €100 million in cycling infrastructure this decade, Graz served as an exceptional example of sustainable mobility. Despite the rainy weather, we saw the implementation of some of these measures on the spot, and after a short tour of the city center, we headed to Slovenia.

Ljubljana: A Green Transformation

Our journey continued at Ljubljana’s Town Hall, whereVita Kontić Bezjak from the Department for Sustainable Mobility of the City of Ljubljana welcomed us on behalf of the City, together with the co-organizing partners, representatives of ODRAZ. Vita Kontić Bezjak showcased the city’s remarkable progress over the past few years, from a green vision to international recognition in sustainable mobility and plans for the future. Matej Prapotnik, the cycling mayor of Ljubljana, followed up with a presentation entitled “Copenhagenize Ljubljana, Ljubljananize Prague,” emphasizing the importance of attractive infrastructure and positive communication and effective policy advocacy for cycling. Gregor Stekalčić from the Ministry of Infrastructure provided an overview from the national level and insights on the master plan for cycling development in the region.

Taking advantage of Ljubljana’s BicikeLJ public bike system, we embarked on a cycling tour guided by Janez Koželj, an avid cyclist, former deputy mayor of the City of Ljubljana, and chief architect. We witnessed the city center’s transformation from a car-oriented into a pedestrian-friendly area with interconnected cycling infrastructure. A walking tour further showcased Ljubljana’s historical context and other mobility measures.

Maribor: Workshop and Well-connected Cycle Paths

In Maribor, the workshop “Innovative approach to sustainable mobility” took place, co-organized by ODRAZ, the City of Maribor, and REGEA. The workshop commenced with an address by the Mayor of Maribor, setting the tone for a day filled with insightful presentations. Dorotea Rebernik and Mateja Bitenc from the City of Maribor shared examples of sustainable urban mobility and investment projects, some of which we later explored during an afternoon city tour. In the subsequent sessions, our focus shifted toward innovation. Uroš Pivk from RIDANGO shed light on the smooth operation of electric vehicles and the significance of data in electromobility management. Petra Grgasović from the EIT Urban Mobility RIS Hub Croatia presented funding options for cities to test innovations before committing to investments. The workshop’s highlight was the “pitch session,” where several European start-ups captivated us with their innovative solutions – from Bikademy and Urban Monkeys to Gepek, DISPO MARKET, SED Station, Wikimove, and SKANAUTO. During the interactive segment, participants were tasked with identifying the challenges faced by their respective cities and finding suitable tools from the presented start-ups to address them effectively. We ended the information-packed day with a walking tour around Maribor and locations with various interesting mobility innovations implemented: pedestrian zones and innovative pedestrian crossings, tactile markings for blind and partially sighted people, pedestrian-friendly traffic lights, conversion of parking spaces into social spaces parklet, Kiss&Ride, etc.

Our exploration of Maribor’s sustainable infrastructure continued the following day with presentations on cycling infrastructure and implemented projects. Additionally, we experienced the city’s cycling infrastructure firsthand using the Mbajk public bicycle system. We also encountered Maribor’s new electric buses, offering fast charging capabilities and operating on the busiest line, number 6. A ride along this line led us to the renowned Maribor ski resort, Pohorje.

Empowered by Knowledge and Inspiration

The study tour provided invaluable knowledge, practical experiences, and networking opportunities. As evident from their positive feedback, participants left with renewed motivation to promote sustainable mobility in their cities.

“We greatly enjoyed the study tour! Slovenian hosts and your colleagues from Croatia provided a very interesting program. Their solutions for cycling and the calming of urban centers are well ahead of the curve compared to Czech Republic cities and especially ours. It is great that you’re organizing such activities, and we will be pleased to hear about other planned events of this type.”

Participant-feedback about the CLIMASUM Study Tour to Slovenia

“I want to thank you for a very well-organized study trip. It was very beneficial, and I believe we will be able to implement a lot of the knowledge, examples of good practice, and suggestions we received in cities in Slovakia.”

Participant-feedback about the CLIMASUM Study Tour to Slovenia

“The event was very well organized, and I commend the organizers.”

Participant-feedback about the CLIMASUM Study Tour to Slovenia

Renocally Puts Building Renovation Passports on the Agenda at the C4E Forum

The C4E Forum brings together relevant actors from the industry, policymakers, and researchers to discuss pressing issues related to energy efficiency in buildings. The 2023 edition focused on energy security, rebuilding Ukraine and EU policy.

Renocally’s workshop fitted in well with this year’s program. Building renovation passports (BRP) have the potential to reduce energy dependence on fossil fuels and are featured in the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) recast proposal, the key European Directive aimed at decarbonising the building stock.

One of the leading questions during the workshop and breakout sessions was how BRPs can be implemented to support energy renovations in CEE. To answer this question, Renocally’s project manager Rutger Broer (BPIE – Germany) and national experts Kamen Simeonov (EnEffect – Bulgaria), Lavinia Andrei (Terra Milenuil III – Romania), and Jana Bendžalová (ENBEE – Slovakia) presented recommendations on how the renovation passports could be implemented in these countries.

Renovation passports are being developed for municipal buildings as part of the Renocally project, and during the session experts highlighted their positive impact for, specifically, building owners. Some of the benefits mentioned were ensuring measures are implemented in the right order (to avoid lock-ins and unnecessary costs), proposing measures with the highest energy efficiency benefits, and providing long-term strategies to achieve zero-emission buildings. Additionally, panelists explained that BRPs are not only beneficial for private owned buildings, but also for public buildings such as schools and offices.

Renocally partners at the C4E Forum, Photo: ©BPIE

Another important point that experts brought up in the workshop was the need to integrate BRPs into existing building performance systems. Particular attention was put on presentations about energy performance certificates (EPCs), the most relevant energy performance information instruments, and how those are validated and issued in each country. Speakers agreed that linking BRPs and EPCs could simplify building renovation processes for homeowners by gathering all information in one place. Experts also mentioned that the quality of EPC’s data is important because it has an impact on BRP’s recommendations. Finally, they all agreed that BRPs could be reflected in the training of energy auditors, who are responsible for issuing EPCs and have a key role in implementing BRP schemes in the CEE.

Johann Strese (attendee) from the Initiative Wohnungswirtschaft Osteuropa (IWO) e.V. said that BRPs are “tools with potential to guide homeowners in CEE through the refurbishment process. The breakout session brought insightful discussions about the challenges and opportunities for implementation.’’

Since there are not yet any official BRP schemes in Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, most questions during the breakout sessions were related to the challenges to implement national BRP schemes and opportunities for tailoring those to national conditions. This resulted in recommendations for policymakers to unleash the potential of BRPs in CEE. Following these recommendations, BRP should:

  • Be linked with national energy performance certificate schemes;
  • Be based on reliable data. The reliability and comparability of existing data from energy performance certificates should be improved;
  • Provide a renovation roadmap towards highly efficient zero-energy buildings;
  • Be facilitated by and linked to innovative and accessible financing instruments;
  • Make sure that training programs on zero-emission renovations and BRP development are made available to energy auditors and other relevant building professionals;
  • Make sure that this knowledge is implemented and tested in more pilot projects and learns from the experience from existing BRP/EPC projects in the region.

Overall, these recommendations will contribute to the work done in Renocally. With EUKI’s support, Renocally is building BRPs experience and capacity for public buildings in municipalities in CEE.

Get in touch for more information and see you at the next C4E!