A European Commission program that aims to support public bodies like city or regional administrations to purchase rooftop solar systems is set to go live in November. The program, which is being launched by its DG Growth initiative, aims to make the public procurement of rooftop solar systems easier for EU cities, regions, and member states.
Technical, administrative and procedural guidance at the European level is set to be provided by the commission to municipalities looking to procure solar. The rooftop solar “big buyers for climate and environment” initiative will be extended to PV and could assist public bodies to acquire rooftop solar systems, allowing them to both reduce their energy costs and make progress towards their carbon reduction goals.
Schools, medical facilities, sport halls, libraries, and swimming pools all make excellent candidates for rooftop PV – with solar able to supply much of the buildings’ daytime electricity demand. With electricity prices high and increasing, due to the European energy crisis, the case for rooftop PV on public buildings has never been more compelling.
Complex and potential restrictive public procurement rules can delay city or regional administrations from adopting rooftop solar. The “big buyers’” initiative looks to overcome this hurdle through providing administrative and technical advice to public authorities.
“It means that the [European] Commission will be offering both money and expertise for cities, regions, and member states who want to engage in these types of projects,” said Martija Matokovic, a policy officer with the commission, at the RE-Source event on Oct. 7 in Amsterdam. “One of the topics we will look at is how to translate technical requirements and technical specifications.”
The Dutch Public Procurement Expertise Center (Pianoo) has been selected to assist the commission with the solar “big buyers’” initiative. It has been tasked with a range of activities including the organizing of meetings and the exchange of information between interested bodies.
A broad definition is being applied by DG Growth as to which bodies qualify as “Big Buyers,” in the new initiative. These can include small and large regions, regional capitals, and big European cities. “But that’s not to say that small cities won’t be eligible,” said Matokovic.
The program may be extended the power purchase agreements (PPAs), Matokovic added. While the direct purchase of rooftop systems is the primary goal.
“It will solely be solar energy,” said Matokovic. “Both how to buy solar energy, potentially via PPAs, but primarily how to buy the equipment and install it.”
The potential for public bodies to accelerate their adoption of rooftop PV is a significant one. Ivan Ivankovic, the head of energy and climate for the city of Zagreb, spoke at RE-Source 2022. He noted that the city’s “solarization” program went live in January 2022. It aims to install 50 MW of rooftop PV across some of the city’s 1,000 public-building rooftops by 2024.
“Although, that is a modest goal that we think we will overshoot,” said Ivankovic. “We have a big ambition, we have the roofs availability, we need to develop decentralized, onsite integrated PV plans if we want to meet our goals and wean ourselves off fossil fuels as much as possible.”
Zagreb, like most of Croatia, has ample sunshine and electricity demand that increases in the sunny summer months, when tourists flock to the country. Ivankovic reported that the complexity of public procurement rules can make it difficult for cities such as Zagreb to adopt solar.
“Public procurement rules are very, very rigid,” the Zagreb city official explained. “EU directive and public procurement are wide enough to acquire PV power plants, but at the implementation process is long and laborious. There needs to be work in educating public procurement officers.”
It is hoped the new rooftop PV program will support European PV production, which is also being supported by DG Growth through the anticipated, but delayed, Solar PV Alliance. However, the mechanisms as to how this would be done was not revealed at the RE-Source vent.
DG Growth has initiated “big buyers’” programs in other sectors such as transportation, construction, and in waste collection. More details on the solar program are expected on its launch in November.
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