Learning from ELENA-REDIBA in Spain: EUR 100 million investment in EE & RES

How ingenuity allowed Barcelona Province’s sustainable energy efforts to succeed in the face of economic recession.

ManagEnergy speaks with Deputy Mercè Rius Serra and Officer Albert Vendrell Roca of Barcelona Provincial Council about Spain’s first ELENA-supported project, REDIBA.

How did this project start?

In 2008 we became the first support structure of the Covenant of Mayors. Right now 210 of our 311 municipalities have signed on. To support them in carrying out their SEAPs we wanted to build a technical assistance unit. Around this time, the EIB had conducted a study showing high PV potential in our province. So finally we brought both situations together: our need for a technical assistance unit and the possibility to use it to realize the investment potential detected by EIB.

We applied for the ELENA and started implementing it in 2010, focusing on the PV actions. But as the project was getting started the economic crisis began to worsen in Spain. And then all the PV regulation in the country changed. For the first year of the project our main focus had been on PV—a public-private arrangement where private operators would rent municipal roofs for installations. This was cut completely by an unexpected change of law—overnight the feed-in-tariff scheme was completely cancelled. We had no choice but to reinvent ourselves. So we focused our attention instead on energy efficiency and biomass for thermal uses.

REDIBA is the first mass-scale ESCO model in Spain. How successful has the project been in this regard? What were/are the major challenges?

We like to point out how, with a scarcity of public money, we’ve been able to find scaled solutions for our municipalities, which are of varying size, each with different projects. This case-by-case operation adds complexity to the management of the project but it’s also necessary. So, although the ESCO contracts are the lion's share of our investments, we are not just an ESCO project. There are several challenges that we have had to contend with. These include:

  • The generally poor economic context in Spain
  • The aforementioned renewables payment scenario is changing and uncertain.
  • Credit crunch: high difficulty to access conventional financing
  • Low debt capacity by local governments
  • Little previous experience of the energy services market for the public sector and lack of clear legal models to promote ESCOs
  • Resistance to change and excessive focus on issues of municipal ownership.

What leverage factor on investment has been achieved to date?

To date we have EUR 71.7 million in awarded investments that have been or are currently being implemented and EUR 13.6 million in the tendering phase. That makes around EUR 85 million in total. So, to date, our leverage achieved is EUR 42.5 million. We still have four months left and expect to reach approximately EUR 100 million for energy efficiency and renewables. So it would make a leverage of 50. That’s double the minimum leverage required by our ELENA contract (which is 25).

Approximately how many jobs have been created as a result of the project?

It’s a complex task to count all the jobs that are a direct result of the projects because we have many different types of projects—from turnkey projects that last a few months to ESCO projects that lasts 12 years. We have some estimations, though: 1400 jobs (employed-year) linked to energy efficiency projects and 200 (employed-year) jobs linked to biomass projects will be created/sustained as a result of these investments.

What has been the public response to the project?

We are glad to say that the ELENA initiative has been very well received among our municipalities. Since the start of the project we have received 312 support applications from 183 municipalities—that’s almost 60 % of our municipalities. Of these, 199 have received external support; the others supported using internal resources from our REDIBA team.

The ELENA project has given our municipalities the definitive push to face energy. We’ve even received some support applications from municipalities outside our province.

Visit Diputació Barcelona's website at http://www.diba.cat/mediambient/elena

Download a presentation on the ELENA-REDIBA project.

Barcelona Provincial Council also leads the IEE project Euronet 50/50 [finalist for the2013 ManagEnergy award] and is now leading the Euronet 50/50 max project, both based on improving energy management through behavioral change within municipal facilities.