Households light up with support of EU, Austria, bilateral donors and EBRD

In less than four years, more than 9,000 households in the Western Balkans have invested around €45 million in energy-saving technologies such as insulation, heat pumps, new windows or solar panels, thanks to the regional Green Economy Financing Facility (GEFF) programme.

These improvements have led to a reduction of CO2 emissions by more than 12,000 tonnes per year, equivalent to removing 7,700 cars from the roads.

The Western Balkans GEFF was established by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with the support of donors and provides specialised credit lines to individuals, together with incentives funded by the European Union (EU), for investments in energy efficiency. The programme is co-financed by the EU, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance, and bilateral donors to the Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF). It is part of the Regional Energy Efficiency Programme (REEP) for the Western Balkans and implemented in partnership with the Energy Community Secretariat.

Following the successful regional roll-out of the programme – most recently extended to Montenegro in March 2021 – as well as the growing interest in energy efficiency financing, the GEFF was increased from €85 million to €135 million, with plans to expand the programme further in 2022.The funding will be channelled through local financial institutions and will allow even more households in the region to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

Aleksandra Vukosavljevic, EBRD Director, Financial Institutions, Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, said: “We are enthusiastic that our support has helped so many households in the Western Balkans to invest in energy-saving improvements, leading to lower emissions and electricity costs. Combating air pollution and decreasing energy intensity are top priorities in the region and we will continue to provide support, with the GEFF as one of our key pillars for the residential sector.”

Households interested in investing in energy efficiency can apply for specialised credit lines at local partner financial institutions. Upon successful completion of their investment, they also receive a grant incentive worth up to 20 per cent of the loan amount and funded by the EU. So far, the EU has contributed €27 million to the programme, to support households that have invested in energy-efficient technologies in the Western Balkans, making those investments more affordable.

Richard Masa, Head of Sector, Western Balkans Investment Framework, European Commission, said: “The European Commission is ready to support the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. Under IPA III funding, it has programmed the allocation of €500 million specifically for this purpose. The WBIF will facilitate the implementation of the Green Agenda by greening past and future investments across all its sectors as well as by prioritising investments in technologies that may accelerate the green transition.”

Leander Treppel, EBRD Board Director for Austria, said: “Austria strongly supports the GEFF in the Western Balkans in order to promote household investments in energy efficiency and allow individuals, as well as poorer households, to understand and benefit from such investments while contributing to sustainable, environmentally friendly improvements and tackling climate change.”

The programme also provided an opportunity for cooperation with more than 4,000 producers and sellers of highly efficient green technologies in the Western Balkans. Vendors are presented in the Technology Selector, an online catalogue of pre-approved energy-efficient equipment obtainable on the six Western Balkans markets. The catalogue is available through the GEFF websites (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia) and includes items such as thermal insulation, double-glazed windows, high-efficiency boilers, heat pumps, solar collectors or solar water heaters, and photovoltaic systems. The Technology Selector enables an easy search for technologies and services and lists matching retailers.

An online event was organised to celebrate the GEFF achievements and award contributing partner financial institutions and vendors. It included a panel discussion about further greening of the region’s economies, in line with the EU Green Agenda and the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

Violeta Kogalniceanu, Head of the Infrastructure and Energy Efficiency Unit, Energy Community Secretariat, said: “The success of GEFF in the Western Balkans is proof that energy efficiency investments in households pay for themselves through the savings they achieve. It also demonstrates that a good programme that wisely combines policy dialogue, technical assistance, the EBRD’s availability to lend to partner financial institutions, and EU grants in the form of incentives, can make a significant impact on the market.”

In recognition of the joint efforts of GEFF donors, partner financial institutions, and producers and vendors of green technologies, the EBRD made a donation of 1,000 trees which will be planted in the region during autumn 2021. This green award honours in particular the 18 partner financial institutions that joined the first phase of the programme and the 32 most active and committed vendors.