1 About the European City Facility (EUCF)
1.1 EUCF at a glance
1.1.1 What is the EUCF?
Municipalities and local authorities play a key role in Europe’s transition towards sustainable energy. They have tremendous potential to build comprehensive sustainable energy investment programmes (i.e. investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy). Moreover, they can encourage the pooling of smaller projects into larger investment portfolios and mobilise the significant financial resources required for the energy transition.
Although the potential is immense, there are fundamental obstacles. In many cases, there is a lack of credible, robust and sufficiently mature investment concepts. However, such concepts, which should include the identification of potential project pipelines, legal analysis, governance analysis, basic financing strategy, and roadmaps for implementation, are a prerequisite to accessing different sources of funding.
In this context, a new pan-EUCF, set up under the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation of the European Union, will provide tailor-made, rapid and simplified financial support (grants of EUR 60,000) and capacity building services to municipalities and local authorities in Europe that will enable them to develop sound investment concepts (hereafter referred to as IC) and mobilise finance in the field of sustainable energy.
The EUCF addresses two fundamental barriers for sustainable energy investments:
Lack of financial and legal capacity of local authorities to transform their long-term energy and climate strategies (e.g. SEAPs, SECAPs etc.) into appropriate investment concepts.
The resulting investment concepts will represent an initial step towards a fully-fledged business and financial plan and in this way facilitate the subsequent mobilisation of (local) investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Sources of funding may come from the private sector, but also from other EU-funded instruments such as the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), various Project Development Assistance (PDA) facilities, such as the ELENA facility of the European Investment Bank, or various national investment platforms.
1.1.2 What are the objectives of the EUCF?
The ultimate objective of the EUCF is to build a substantial pipeline of sustainable energy investment projects across municipalities in Europe. This will be achieved by providing targeted financial, technical, legal and capacity building support to overcome critical barriers, develop credible investment packages and mobilise finance. Delivering this will require organisational, technical and financial innovation, in particular to bridge the capacity and capability gap for small and medium-sized municipalities.
The specific objectives of the EUCF are to:
Provide hands-on locally rooted technical and financial expertise, inspired by ‘best in class’ European practice, to cities to deliver more than 200 credible and scalable investment projects, which should trigger more than EUR 320 million of public and private investment;
Build the capacity of more than 400 municipal staff to develop substantial project pipelines and provide them with tools, networking and knowledge transfer opportunities, which will facilitate and accelerate the IC implementation, including via innovative financing mechanisms and project aggregation;
Facilitate access especially for small and medium-sized municipalities to private finance, EU funding streams and similar facilities, such as the European Structural and Investment Funds, the H2020 Project Development Assistance and the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) European Local Energy Assistance) and advisory services such as the EIB Advisory Hub to realise and amplify the expected investments;
Use the successful IC and the knowledge of EUCF beneficiaries to reach out to more than 10,000 cities and communities, encourage replication and catalyse further action across European cities.
1.1.3 What are the guiding principles of the EUCF?
The principles guiding the design and operation of the EUCF can be characterised as follows:
1) Demand-driven: designed by cities for cities
Different networks of European cities compose the Consortium responsible for the implementation and management of the EUCF in order to ensure that the EUCF takes into consideration and directly responds to the needs of municipalities and local authorities. Also contributing to this principle, the EUCF Strategic Board is composed by representatives of EU municipalities, and is responsible for the strategic steering of the EUCF, ensuring that the demands of local authorities are appropriately addressed.
2) Close to the local level: mobilising a critical mass of cities
To address national specificities and overcome language barriers, which are often a challenge for small and medium-sized municipalities to apply for financing opportunities, the work of the EUCF is supported by experts in each EU-27 Member State and the United Kingdom (UK). Country Experts can provide support in national language to municipalities and local authorities, and have extensive technical and financial expertise in the field of sustainable energy and climate, experience with municipalities and strong connections to national and regional city networks, contributing to position the EUCF very close to the local level and country-specific contexts.
3) Ambitious: helping develop strategic and ambitious investment concepts
The EUCF support is targeted towards strategic or transformational projects in the field of sustainable energy identified in the climate and energy plans of the municipalities and local authorities. Besides the financial support, beneficiaries of the EUCF will receive hands-on guidance, as well as have access to a European pool of experts, to ensure the development of ambitious and sound investment concepts in line with the principles of the EUCF.
4) Supporting scaling: capturing opportunities for standardisation and project aggregation
The EUCF will ensure, where feasible, the integration of measures for scaling-up of investment packages in investment concepts through standardisation and project aggregation. Smaller communities are therefore encouraged to reinforce multi-level governance on their territories and implement projects jointly or under the umbrella of a larger public authority. All developed investment concepts will follow a standard structure and respect minimum quality requirements, which will facilitate matchmaking with future investors and financiers.
1.2 EUCF process
1.2.1 How does the EUCF journey look like?
The graph below summarises the journey that municipalities and local authorities are able to take within the scope of the EUCF, from the pre-application phase where potential applicants are able to inform themselves about the EUCF through different channels towards the implementation of the investment concept by the beneficiaries of the EUCF. Please note that the application period for the first call for applications has been extended due to Covid-19 and lasts from 25 May 2020 to 2 October 2020.
1.2.2 What are the main steps in the EUCF journey?
1) Pre-application phase
At the beginning of the EUCF journey, potential applicants are able to receive information about the scope and the benefits of the EUCF by visiting the EUCF website, attending promotional events at EU and national level and participating in the EUCF webinars and info sessions.
2) Application phase
The EUCF application process comprises of two steps: i) the eligibility check and ii) the full application. The eligibility check is a simple, automated questionnaire, which can be answered by the applicant directly at the EUCF website. To be eligible, applicants must be able to answer YES to all five questions. Eligible applicants are able to move forward in the application process and complete the full application form and supporting documents. The applications are submitted via the EUCF website user zone. Once the call for applications is closed, the applications are evaluated by a dedicated team. Successful applications are selected and move to the next phase, while unsuccessful applications are redirected to the EUCF Helpdesk for support.
3) Grant Agreement phase
Successful applicants conclude Grant Agreements to benefit from the EUCF support. 70% of the lump sum will be disbursed at the Grant Agreement signature; 30% of the lump sum after positive validation of the investment concept.
4) Development of the investment concept
Beneficiaries shall develop the investments concepts in national language (together with an English Summary) over a period of up to twelve months, during which the EUCF provides support through technical and financial expertise from Country Experts and the EUCF team, standard tools and documents and capacity building events in different geographical regions on the topic.
5) Implementation of the investment concept
After finalisation of the investment concepts, they are validated by a dedicated evaluation team. If they meet the quality criteria, beneficiaries receive the remaining 30% of the total grant amount and can proceed with the successful implementation of their investment concepts. The EUCF accompanies the process by organising matchmaking events, Communities of Practice and other capacity building events and monitoring the implementation.
1.3 EUCF support
1.3.1 Who can apply to receive EUCF support?
Municipalities and local authorities as well as groupings of municipalities/local authorities located in the European Union and the UK are able to apply to receive EUCF support.
1.3.2 Which type of financial support is provided?
Successful applicants receive financial support in the form of a EUR 60,000 grant for the development of the investment concept.
1.3.3 Which activities are funded by the EUCF grant?
The EUR 60,000 grant is provided to EUCF beneficiaries to support activities necessary for the development of investment concepts. The grant amount can be used for in-house staff if internal capacities are sufficient, for external experts/sub-contractors or for other positions that are necessary for the investment concept development. Among the activities that can be funded are feasibility studies, engineering analyses, legal analyses, social studies, market studies, financial analyses, and further supporting tasks.
1.3.4 Which types of investment projects does the EUCF support?
The EUCF provides support for investment projects within the field of sustainable energy, including all investments on the energy demand side, which contribute to the improvement of energy performance and the achievement of energy savings. Among the investment sectors targeted by the EUCF are public, residential buildings and tertiary (non-municipal) buildings, efficiency improvements in equipment/facilities, development and use of building integrated renewables, district heating modernisation or fuel switch to renewables, smart grids, sustainable urban mobility (e.g. public transport, charging stations, etc.), and innovative energy infrastructure (e.g. citizen energy communities1, innovative approaches to public lighting, wastewater treatment plants, etc.). Nevertheless, it is also possible to implement projects in further sectors, as long as they are in the field of sustainable energy.
1.3.5 Which types of investment projects are excluded from the EUCF?
The EUCF is aligned with the European Commission’s European Green Deal, 2030 climate & energy framework, 2050 long-term strategy and the European Investment Bank’s new energy lending policy. Thus, the EUCF has a clear position not to support investments in energy projects reliant on unabated fossil fuels, such as the production of oil and natural gas, traditional gas infrastructure, power generation technologies resulting in GHG emissions above 250 gCO2 per kWh of electricity generated, and large-scale heat production infrastructure based on unabated oil, natural gas, coal or peat.
1.3.6 Which technical support activities does the EUCF offer?
The EUCF provides municipalities and local authorities with different types of technical support activities along their journey within the EUCF:
Info sessions and capacity building events: Before the opening of each call for applications, the EUCF organises, in cooperation with the national city networks and Country Experts, info sessions in each country to provide interested municipalities and local authorities with more information on the EUCF. Moreover, regional capacity building events, such as peer-to-peer learning opportunities and Communities of Practice, as well as webinars are planned throughout the EUCF journey to support beneficiaries in the development of the investment concept.
Support from Country Experts: Country Experts assist beneficiaries of the EUCF in the application process and with technical and financial expertise in national language during the development process of the investment concept. Country Experts do not develop investment concepts themselves. For each EU-27 Member State and the UK, an expert has been assigned, which can be contacted by the municipalities/local authorities of the respective country directly through the EUCF website user zone or email for questions, clarifications and other requests.
Support from the EUCF Helpdesk: Along the entire EUCF journey, the EUCF Helpdesk plays a fundamental role in providing technical support to potential applicants and interested parties, as well as registered applicants and beneficiaries of the EUCF. The EUCF Helpdesk can be accessed through the EUCF website and EUCF website user zone, and allows users to easily communicate with the EUCF team and obtain support in case of questions, technical issues, etc.
Knowledge products and materials: Various knowledge tools and documents are provided on the EUCF website to facilitate the application and development process of the investment concept, such as Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Glossary, Investment Concept template, Case Studies, etc.
2.1 Application process
2.1.1 What is the procedure to receive funding from the EUCF?
The overall application process consists of two main steps: the eligibility check and the full application.
1) Eligibility check
The eligibility check is a simple, automated questionnaire, which can be answered by the applicant directly online. It verifies whether an applicant is eligible to apply for financial support from the EUCF. To be eligible, applicants must be able to answer YES to all five requirements. Applicants receive the result of the eligibility check immediately after answering all questions. At this stage, supporting documents are not required.
2) Full application
After successfully passing the eligibility check, the applicant can complete the full application form, prepare the supporting documents and submit them via the EUCF website user zone. Once the call for proposals is closed, the applications are evaluated by a dedicated team. The best scored applications are selected and will conclude the Grant Agreements to receive EUCF support. Unsuccessful applications can seek support from the EUCF Helpdesk and can participate again in next call for applications.
2.1.2 How are the EUCF calls for applications organised?
Four calls for applications with cut off dates will take place within the scope of the EUCF. Each call is organised in parallel for three geographic regions (incl. UK) of the European Union, as displayed in the map below:
Regional Calls for Applications
Central and Eastern Europe
Nordic countries & Western Europe Southern Europe
Central and Eastern Europe
Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Nordic countries & Western Europe
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom.
Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain.
2.1.3 When are the EUCF calls for applications taking place?
Overall, each call for applications will be open for two months, except for the first call where the application period has been extended due to Covid-19. The following tentative timeline applies for the EUCF calls for applications:
25 May 2020 - 2 October 2020
March - April 2021
October - November 2021
May - June 2022
The exact dates of the calls and any alterations regarding the opening and closing of application periods will be published on the EUCF website under the section Open calls.
A municipality/local authority or grouping of municipalities/local authorities is able to benefit only once from the EUCF support. Thus, successful applicants are not able to participate again in the calls for applications. Unsuccessful applications, in turn, can be revised and re-submitted in the next call for applications.
2.1.5 How to seek support in case of questions during the application process?
Available on the EUCF website, the FAQs provide a comprehensive overview of questions that arise during the application process and corresponding answers and information. Moreover, a Glossary of relevant terms is provided to facilitate the applicant’s understanding of the EUCF documents. In case of questions that cannot be found in these documents, municipalities and local authorities can seek further support from the EUCF Helpdesk, which provides efficient and timely responses to the queries raised.
2.2 Eligibility check
2.2.1 Who is eligible to receive EUCF support?
Applicants have to meet the following requirements to be eligible for EUCF support:
In order to move to the next stage of the application process, applicants must be able to answer YES to all of the above mentioned requirements. The eligibility check can be done directly online. After completing the check, applicants are immediately informed about their results and next steps.
2.1.4 Can municipalities/local authorities apply several times and/or resubmit a rejected application for the EUCF grant?
2.2.2 Where can the eligibility check be found?
The eligibility check is available on the EUCF website.
2.2.3 What does a plan of similar ambition have to include to be equivalent with a SEAP or SECAP?
Municipalities/local authorities without a Sustainable Energy Action Plan (SEAP) or Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP), developed in the Covenant of Mayors framework are able to submit a politically approved energy/climate plan of similar ambition. A plan of similar ambition is considered equivalent to a SEAP/SECAP if it includes energy and climate targets at least for the year 2020.
As part of the full application, SEAPs, SECAPs or plans of similar ambition need to be submitted together with the template for Annex A – SEAP, SECAP or plan of similar ambition – Summary, to provide an overview of the main energy and climate targets established by the plan.
2.2.4 How can an applicant show political commitment?
In order to demonstrate political commitment to the development of the investment concept, the EUCF applicant must provide a letter of support, signed by the mayor or other relevant political representative. The letter of support needs to be submitted together with the full application. To facilitate the submission of this document, a template for Annex B is provided on the EUCF website.
2.2.5 What does the EUCF monitoring period entail?
The EUCF monitoring period has a duration of two years, in which the implementation of the investment concept is supervised and documented. During this period, beneficiaries are asked to notify the EUCF on the implementation process by submitting two simple monitoring forms on key figures, which are used to assess the impacts of the EUCF.
2.2.6 What are the next steps after the eligibility check?
After successfully passing the eligibility check, applicants automatically receive login details to access the EUCF website user zone. There, applicants can complete and submit the online application form together with the supporting documents.
2.3 Application form
2.3.1 Where can the application form be found?
The online application form is integrated in the EUCF website user zone and accessible for applicants who have successfully completed the eligibility check. After the eligibility check, eligible applicants receive login details to the EUCF website user zone. Potential applicants can take a look at the questions of the application form in advance, available on the EUCF website.
2.2.3 What does a plan of similar ambition have to include to be equivalent with a SEAP or SECAP?
2.3.2 Which information has to be provided in the application form?
The application form consists of a set of questions, grouped into three sections. For each of the sections, the following information has to be provided in English language by the applicant:
1) Identification of the applicant
This section comprises general information about the municipality/local authority or grouping of municipalities/local authorities, such as contact details, contact persons as well as Local administrative units (LAU) and Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) 3 codes of the municipality/local authority. For groupings, the name of the lead applicant as well as the LAU and NUTS 3 codes of each participating municipality/local authority have to be provided.
2) Development of the investment concept
In this section, information has to be provided on how the municipality/local authority plans to develop the investment concept in the scope of the EUCF. This concerns the period for which the municipality/local authority receives the EUCF grant. The required items are presented in more detail in the table below.
2.1 Title of the proposed investment concept
2.2 Allocation of grant amount
The applicant is asked to indicate how the EUCF grant resources will be allocated for the development of the investment concept, e.g. for in-house staff, external experts/sub-contractors or other positions that are necessary for the investment concept development. More than one answer is possible. The information provided is for monitoring purposes only and not part of the evaluation.
2.3 Activities funded by grant amount
The applicant is asked to indicate the missing component(s) for the development of the intended investment concept and explain how the EUCF grant can fill this gap. The activities to be funded by the grant amount should also be described, and can include, for instance, the development of engineering, legal or financial analyses and of social and market studies or further supporting tasks. The information provided is for monitoring purposes only and not part of the evaluation.
2.4 Governance for investment concept development
The internal organisation structure in place for the development of the investment concept has to be described, indicating the roles and responsibilities of the people involved and how decisions are taken. The provided information should allow for an overview of the governance structure and the internal capacities of the applicant, indicating also if further support by external experts might be needed and how they could provide a value added. In case of groupings, the description of the governance structure is particularly important to clarify how the grouping is organised internally and how responsibilities are distributed and decisions are made.
2.5 Engagement of stakeholders
In a brief manner, the applicant should describe the most relevant external stakeholders for the planned investment project, indicating their needs and expectations towards it. The provided answer should also include an overview of the activities and communication tools planned to engage the stakeholders in the process of developing the investment concept, with the corresponding timing and objectives of each action.
3) Implementation of investment project
Finally, this section presents preliminary information on the proposed investment project for which an investment concept should be developed within the EUCF. The requirements for this section are described in more detail in the following table.
3.2 Intended measures
The applicant is asked to describe the intended technology measure(s) to be financed. Non- eligible technology measures under the EUCF are aligned with the new European Investment Bank (EIB) energy lending policy, adopted on 14 November 2019.
3.4 Expected impacts
The applicant must indicate, in GWh/y, the approximate energy savings expected to be generated by the planned investment project. The corresponding calculation log should be attached to the application, to allow for an understanding of the provided value and the parameters used for the estimation. A template for Annex D – Estimation of Energy Savings is available to facilitate the estimation for the applicants.
If available at this stage, the applicant can state further impacts expected from the investment project such as avoided CO2 emissions, renewable energy production, job creation, etc. and attach the corresponding supporting documents and/or calculation log. The template for Annex D can also be used to estimate the CO2 emission reductions and renewable energy production of the investment project.
3.1 Investment sector(s) targeted
The applicant must select the sector(s) targeted by the proposed investment project from a list of potential sectors in the field of sustainable energy. The applicant can also indicate other sectors than those listed in the form, as long as they concern sustainable energy.
3.3 Expected size of investment
The applicant must indicate, in Euro, the approximate size of total investments in sustainable energy expected for the planned investment project. Corresponding supporting documents and/or calculation log have to be attached to the application to allow for an understanding of the provided value and the parameters used for the estimation. A template for Annex E – Estimation of Investment Size is available to facilitate the estimation for the applicants.
3.5 Potential for replication and/or up-scaling
The applicant should briefly explain how the planned investment project could be potentially replicated in other contexts and/or up-scaled in its region.
2.3.3 What is the LAU and NUTS code?
The Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) is a territorial classification that subdivides the territory of the European Union and the UK into three different hierarchical levels (NUTS 1, NUTS 2 and NUTS 3) for statistical and planning purposes. The NUTS 3 classification corresponds to small regions for specific diagnoses at regional level.
Concerning the local level, a system of Local Administrative Units (LAUs) is maintained in compatibility with the NUTS system. LAUs are subdivisions of the NUTS 3 regions, covering the entire economic territory of each EU-27 Member State and the UK.
The respective NUTS 3 and LAU codes can be found on a yearly updated list, available on the Eurostat website. In the application form, the NUTS 3 codes can be selected from a drop-down list and the corresponding LAU codes are assigned automatically based on the postal codes provided.
2.3.4 Which technology measures are not eligible under the EUCF?
The EUCF is aligned with the new EIB energy lending policy, adopted in November 2019. Consequently, investments in energy projects reliant on unabated fossil fuels are not supported. See also section 1.3.5 for more information.
2.3.5 How is the investment size defined?
The investment size provided by the applicant in the application form should only cover the investments in sustainable energy of the planned project, not any other potential components of the project not related to sustainable energy. There is no minimum or maximum threshold for investment size to apply to the EUCF. In the evaluation process, the level of ambition of the expected size of investment of the planned investment project is set into relation to the other submitted applications in the regional call as well as to the local context.
2.3.6 How should energy savings be calculated?
To facilitate the calculation of the expected energy savings of an investment project, the EUCF provides a template for Annex D – Estimation of Energy Savings. There is no minimum or maximum threshold for energy savings to apply to the EUCF. In the evaluation process, the level of ambition of the expected energy savings generated by the planned investment project is set into relation to the other submitted applications in the regional call as well as to the local context.
2.3.7 What happens if the exact investment size or energy savings amount cannot be determined yet?
In case specific values for the investment size and energy savings cannot be determined yet, the applicant can use approximate values instead, which still allows the EUCF evaluation team to understand its level of ambition and potential impacts. Any comments on the values and calculations can be added in the comments section in the templates for Annex D (Energy Savings) and Annex E (Investment Size).