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Planning for EU Structural Funds 2014-2020: Views from Wales and Romania

ManagEnergy spoke with Karl James of the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO), which is the Managing Authority for Structural Funds in Wales. They have been designing their programmes for 2014-2020 for over a year now, and have already published drafts to help stakeholders with planning and development of Structural Funds projects.

According to James, Wales’ energy ambitions are described in three specific investment priorities:

• To increase the success of Welsh research institutions in attracting competitive and private research funding related to low-carbon research and innovation;

• to increase the number of wave and tidal energy devices being tested and deployed; and

• to increase the energy efficiency of the existing Welsh housing stock, particularly in areas of fuel poverty.

On addressing fuel poverty and energy efficiency in buildings

‘WEFO has direct investment plans to specifically address energy efficiency in buildings,’ said James. ‘These plans are focused on those households that find themselves in fuel poverty.’ The Welsh Government has committed to eradicate fuel poverty by 2018. According to a recent government report, in 2010 over 23% (332,000) of households in Wales faced issues of fuel poverty.

On Wales’ marine energy commitment and financing opportunities for small-scale energy schemes

According to the draft of the West Wales and the Valleys ERDF Operational Programme , ‘Wales has key assets important to the emerging marine energy sector where there is still an opportunity to capture greater market share.’ The UK Energy and Climate Change Select Committee has reported that the marine renewables industry (tidal and wave) could be worth £3.7billion to the UK by 2020.

‘Access to finance is good (albeit fragmented) for viable small-scale schemes,’ the draft OP continues, ‘but there is a need to de-risk the early stage development of proposals before they can attract finance.’

Based findings from Ynni’r Fro, a Welsh community energy scheme funded through ERDF, large capital finance is not the main barrier to local and community schemes. The real need is for advice and guidance for groups to address financing options prior to reaching consent in order to achieve a financially viable proposition.

On multi-fund Operational Programmes

According to James, WEFO is proactively lining itself up to work more directly with the European Social Fund , European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund that all operate in Wales. ‘In addition to this we have the European Territorial Cooperation Programmes being managed within WEFO and have recently created a Horizon 2020 branch to consider how Wales should capitalise on future calls. Our aim is to composite these funds in future where they add value to specific operations.’

ManagEnergy also spoke with Costel Jitaru of the Romanian Ministry of Regional Development and Public Administration, which is the Managing Authority of the Regional Operational Programme in Romania.

On Romania’s priorities

According to Jitaru ‘at the national level in the next programming period the draft Partnership Agreement identified energy efficiency and renewable energy/low carbon economy as a priority for funding in 2014-2020. More information about the approach on energy efficiency can be found on the draft Partnership Agreement .’

On specific energy actions

‘The Regional Operational Programme 2014-2020 will have a specific priority axis for energy efficiency type investments mainly related to energy efficiency in residential and public buildings, including public lighting, as well as promoting clean urban transport,’ said Jitaru. ‘Romania needs to reach its targets for 19% reduction of primary energy consumption in 2020 as compared to 2007. The building sector is a large source of energy consumption. Primarily this calls for deep renovation in residential and public buildings and energy efficiency measures in street lighting…’

On improving the labour market in Romania

‘Investments’, according to Jitaru, ‘will generate a demand for engineers in energy service companies, technical staff in the implementing authorities, qualified and unqualified workers for construction works. At the same time, it is expected that end-user energy prices will be kept lower due to reduced demand in primary consumption of energy, as a result of EE investments.’