Municipalities demand a permanent funding mechanism for energy efficiency projects

The discussion forum "Mayors Talk" took place on 10 and 11 July in Gabrovo. It was attended by representatives of the European Parliament, the Bulgarian government and local authorities and professional associations, as well as experts from various public sectors from home and abroad. The organisers are the Municipality of Gabrovo, the Municipal Energy Efficiency Network EcoEnergy and the Center for Energy Efficiency EnEffect.

The central theme of the conference was tools for implementing sustainable energy innovations, as well as the integrated energy and climate plan. Speakers on the topics included Tanya Hristova, Mayor of Gabrovo, Angelina Boneva, Deputy Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Ivaylo Alexiev, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy Development Agency (SEDA), Dragomir Tzanev, Executive Director of EnEffect, and mayors of Bulgarian municipalities.

The first day of the forum focused on the lessons learned from the energy crisis and the opportunities for optimising the many related processes and sectoral policies that occur in the field of energy efficiency. Angelina Boneva shared her view that local authorities are the real agents of transformation and municipalities are always at the forefront when facing the increasingly frequent economic and energy crises. According to her, the dialogue on multi-level governance has not yet taken place, and clear responsibilities and clear tools need to be defined for local authorities to implement more and better projects. 

Tanya Hristova appealed "to be unconventional, ambitious, technological and innovative, to look for complex solutions and new approaches for the new programmes". She highlighted the key role of municipalities, which are expected to take a direct part in achieving national objectives, but do not receive technical support for the implementation of complex projects, and the still missing financial decentralisation does not allow building local capacity.

An important part of the problem is the inconsistency and the lack of sustainable financing of energy efficiency policies, confirmed the Executive Director of SEDA Ivaylo Alexiev. In this way we cannot meet the set targets and it is clear that public funding alone will not be enough to meet the public interest. According to Dragomir Tzanev, the campaign nature of the programmes and the channelling of huge public resources to a limited number of beneficiaries leads to market distortion and the entry of unfair consulting and construction practices. The solution is to create a permanent mechanism that combines subsidies with soft loans, mobilises service providers and meets owner demand at all times.

The second day of the event started with a discussion with MEP Eva Maydell, where the main topic was the lack of a policy decision-making tool on energy efficiency. The delay of the new version of the national energy and climate plan, which was due to be submitted to the EC at the end of June and there is still no clarity on its preparation, was pointed out as a key point in this direction. "In petty politicking we are missing serious opportunities, we have the expertise, but we lack the strategy," Maydell said. "The issues of eurozone and Schengen accession are really important, but we also need to pay attention to cross-cutting policies such as energy efficiency and that is why I am ready for talks with the environment and energy ministers," the MEP added.

The meeting continued with a presentation of successful local practices and challenges in the field of energy efficiency in the context of the European Year of Skills. Representatives from the municipalities of Ѐspoo, Finland, and Harlem, the Netherlands, talked about interesting local projects, while 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 the project for the renovation of the swimming pool of Pavlikeni Municipality, winner of the annual EcoEnergy competition. Of particular interest was the discussion on the gaps in the education system and the inability to provide staff for the quality implementation of the projects, which was reported as a huge problem both locally and nationally. 

"Last year, the discussion forum "Mayors Speak" ended with a declaration on accelerating the processes in the field of energy efficiency, signed by 96 municipalities, and sent to all representatives of the executive and legislative authorities," said the event's host Dragomir Tzanev at the closing. "I am convinced that with this edition will attract even more supporters from all sectors. We are inaugurating a permanent national forum for cooperation in the development of the National Energy and Climate Plan, and we promise that the talks in this direction will not stop here," he added.

Declaration of MEEN EcoEnergy as a result of the discussion forum "Mayors Speak" held on 10-11 July 2023 in Gabrovo.