Low-carbon investment funding: Southern Great Plain

Southern Great Plain region

The Funding Report on Low-carbon Investments provides an assessment on the utilization of public funding accessible for the Southern Great Plain Region (SGP) to strengthen the green transition of the Region.

The Southern Great Plain Region includes three -NUTS3 level- counties: Bács-Kiskun, Békés and Csongrád. With its total area of 18,337 m2, the SGP region is the largest among the seven NUTS2-level -so-called planning and statistical- regions in Hungary and is the third largest regarding its population. The administrative centre of the SGP is the city of Szeged, which is also the seat town of Csongrád County.
No formalized regional-level low-carbon policies have so far been developed for the Southern Great Plain. However, the county municipalities of Bács-Kiskun and Békés Counties have already prepared and adopted a Climate Strategy at county level.

Decentralised funds provided by the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIFs) 

The ESIFs and the associated local co-funding represent the bulk of the public funding provided for the development of low-carbon investments in the SGP. Based on the agreed eleven Thematic Objectives of the Programming Period 2014-2020, the Hungarian Government has elaborated and adopted nine Operational Programmes of which 4 (GINOP, TOP, KEHOP, VEKOP) address the transition towards the green economy (TO4). Funds available for the SGP Region in relation to the low-carbon sector development are projected under the Economic Development and Innovation (GINOP), the Environment and Energy Efficiency (KEHOP); and the Territorial and Settlement Development (TOP) Operational Programmes. The specific objectives of these Operational Programmes include, in particular: 

  • Strengthening the competitiveness of the business sector through decreased direct energy costs by energy efficiency and renewable investments;
  • Energy renovation of buildings by increasing energy efficiency and the share of renewables;
  • Supporting energy refurbishment of residential and commercial buildings including building-integrated renewable solutions;
  • Support to the installation of solar photovoltaic systems;
  • Non-building related, on-grid green electricity production based on renewable resources;
  • Development district heating supply and distribution systems as well as their conversion to renewable fuel;
  • Public awareness raising activities;
  • Development of sustainable urban mobility; and
  • Support to municipalities for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy development.

The funding mostly allocated through public Calls for Proposals, and the selected projects are well traceable. The total decentralized funding committed in Hungary for TO4 amounts to a total of € 2,139.4 million of which an estimated total of € 291.9 million has been decided to SGP by the end of 2019.

From other EU low-carbon initiatives the most significant was the Horizon 2020 initiative from which 8 projects were identified in the SGP region. The total funding of these projects is € 803 thousand.

Regarding the Southern Great Plain Region, solar power generation infrastructure represents the largest share of new investments in renewable energies (RES), followed by geothermal heat and biomass, while wind and hydro power is currently playing a marginal role, due to the specific natural characteristics of the Region. There are still unexploited potentials, especially for the utilization of agricultural and forestry products/by-products. As far as the energy performance of buildings at regional level is concerned, the energy efficiency refurbishment combined with the introduction of RES plays an outstanding role as very significant energy savings can be achieved through a well-thought-out regional strategy and appropriately designed financial instruments. 

The review of the utilization of low-carbon investment funding in the SGP Region suggests that despite the available European and national resources and notable results, the Region was not able to sufficiently exploit these opportunities to accelerate its shift towards the low-carbon economy within the 2014-2020 period. In the next programming period (2021-2027) the green economy transition process needs to be supported with the formulation of regional energy strategy and the establishment of decentralized energy planning and management structure thus allowing the SGP Region to be able to mobilize a bigger share from these fundings. 

The financial support is rather well-designed at the national level, however, the regions in Hungary need to better voice the special characters and tailored demands of their specific areas.  Additionally, raising awareness, capacity building especially for the design of complex decentralized energy projects, and triggering intensified local cooperation networks, are required. PROSPECT 2030 project intends to substantially assist the SGP Region through supporting the decentralized energy planning and capacity building and thereby to contribute to the process that could make SGP the most energy-conscious and the best-prepared region in the country.  PROSPECT 2030 also intends to capitalize on specific findings of the funding report to formulate a set of policy recommendations for the decision-makers at European and national levels.

Check the full report here.

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PV plant 2