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EU looks to free up €115m in extra low-carbon funding

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Proposed changes to EU rules on financial assistance look set to free up about €115m (£95.6m) in otherwise unspent funds that could be used to support clean and efficient energy projects.

The proposed reforms, approved yesterday by the Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament, could see the money ploughed into projects to improve energy efficiency in areas such as urban transport, public lighting, and heating and cooling.

The funds are available as part of the European Energy Recovery Programme (EERP), which was launched in 2009, and aims to fuel economic recovery by funding energy projects such as cross-border gas and electricity inter-connectors, offshore wind parks and carbon capture and storage projects.

However, €115m of the €3.98bn investment planned for 2010 has yet to be committed, and the rule changes are needed to re-allocate the unspent money before the end of the year.

When the EERP was first proposed, the European Parliament sought unsuccessfully to include energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in the programme. However, the European Commission, which initially opposed the proposal, has now promised to consider using any funds unspent by the end of 2010 for efficiency and renewable energy projects.

The funding will only be available to projects that have a rapid, measurable and substantial impact on economic recovery, increased energy security and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the Commission said.

The types of projects that could be eligible for the funding include investments in combined heat and power and district heating and cooling networks, decentralised renewable energy technologies, clean urban transport with an emphasis on public transport and electrified and hydrogen vehicles, efficient street lighting and outdoor lighting for public infrastructure, electricity storage solutions and smart grids.

The proposed rule changes were carried with 49 votes in favour, none against and four abstentions and will be put to a final vote by the whole Parliament in Strasbourg in October.

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