The European Union is living a key moment in the energy and ecological transition because of the geopolitical crisis consequence of the invasion of Ukraine. Now, more than ever, the European Commission is determined to reduce its dependence on Russian gas and has launched some initiatives to the end. The recently approved REPowerEU Plan or the ‘Fit for 55’ regulatory framework (aimed at reducing emissions) is oriented in this direction, and the Commission stresses the fundamental role that energy-saving must play in our buildings: in this sense, there is a clear preference for in-depth rehabilitation projects, which involve savings of more than 60% of energy consumption.
In this context of a double need for decarbonisation and reduction of energy dependence, the Commission clearly supports projects such as Opengela that also include a social component. Martin Eibl, Senior Project Advisor at CINEA, the official body that oversees such projects, explained.
During the General Assembly of Opengela, which brought together all the partners of the consortium led by the Department of Territorial Planning, Housing and Transport, Mr Eibl highlighted the role played by Opengela, an urban regeneration project that is developing two pilot projects in the Otxarkoaga (Bilbao) and Txonta (Eibar) neighbourhoods. He highlighted four reasons: on the one hand, he emphasised the «ambitious energy savings» proposed by the project thanks to the works related to efficiency in the intervened buildings. On the other hand, he underlined the importance given to «the value chain to create local experiences and employment», which speaks in favour of «long-term policies».
Thirdly, emphasis was placed on «scalable processes and funding» beyond the two pilot neighbourhoods, which have already begun to be applied in other Basque localities and have been the subject of interest from other European regions. In addition, CINEA values «the support to vulnerable communities of homeowners», a relevant aspect of the project.
Eight-month extension for Horizon 2020 project
The General Assembly also served to confirm that this project financed by the EU through the Horizon 2020 programme (with 1.7 million euros) will be extended by eight months more than initially planned. Instead of ending in May 2022, the European Commission has accepted an extension – without additional funding – until January 2023 to allow all the objectives to be reached and to finalise the works in the Txonta and Otxarkoaga neighbourhoods, some of which were delayed due to the difficulties arising from the pandemic and the recent supply crisis.