On Thursday 17 November 2022, Luxembourg's Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Joëlle Welfring, issued a statement regarding the processing times for applications for environmental financial aid.
Minister Welfring clarified that there are several financial aid schemes that aim to decarbonise society, support the transition to a more sustainable society and help households and other actors to become less dependent on fossil fuels.
For example, the scheme for the promotion of zero-emission road vehicles as well as the regulation aimed at introducing financial assistance for the installation of private charging stations for electric vehicles. Similarly, the aid scheme for the promotion of sustainability and the rational use of energy and renewable energies in the field of housing. Many of these aids were revised upwards as part of the "Neistart Lëtzebuerg" package of measures in 2020 and those retained during the tripartite agreement of September 2022. They thus respond to emergency situations, in particular the pandemic of COVID-19 and more recently the energy crisis. Consequently, they were not anticipated in the staff planning of the Environment Administration in charge of processing application files. The human resources reinforcement of the Subsidies and Financial Aid service of the administration could only be started once these measures had been decided. The weak reinforcement in human resources before October 2022 and the reorganisation within the Environment Administration have therefore not been able to absorb the growing number of requests submitted. Thus, a backlog in the processing of applications has accumulated.
For some schemes, such as for financial aid for electric cars or for charging stations, the deadlines have meanwhile been reduced to a satisfactory level. The applications with the longest processing times currently concern bicycles and aid for technical installations under the "Klimabonus wunnen" scheme, including photovoltaic installations.
From 1 January 2019 to date, nearly 174,000 requests for aid, all types combined, have been submitted, with a peak in 2021 (71,200 requests). Currently, the instruction of approximately 35,000 requests could not yet be finalised.
Despite the extended processing times, the committed or liquidated amounts at the beginning of November 2022 corresponded on average to more than 80% of the budget granted for the 2022 budget year, which is €56,465,000, the "Klimabonus wunnen" bonuses and the bonuses for committed or liquidated charging stations exceeding 90% of the allocated budget.
In total, from 2001 until November 2022, aid corresponding to an amount of €628,300,000 has been granted.
Reinforcements in human resources carried out and planned in order to reduce request processing times
Initially, the Environment Administration took short-term measures to improve the situation. It reassigned agents from other departments to the Subsidies and Financial Aid department and recruited additional staff through OTI contracts in cooperation with ADEM. All these measures have made it possible to increase the number of premiums paid. Subsequently, the Environment Administration recruited additional staff and continues to recruit. Currently, the number of full-time employees of the subsidies and financial aid service is 23 people, all careers and types of contracts combined.
About half of these people carry out this work on a fixed-term contract, a type of contract that is not very attractive for people looking for a more lasting professional commitment, leaving the Environment Administration to take up a job on a long-term contract. There are thus significant occasional fluctuations in the number of people actually available. In addition, each new employee must obviously undergo training to be able to process the requests entrusted to them and that during these training periods, neither the new recruit nor the trainer can evacuate the same number of files as in a normal situation.
The number of agents performing this work on a fixed-term contract has increased from eight at the start of 2019 to 12.5 today. In 2019, the subsidy and financial aid service consisted solely of these eight agents.
Within the framework of the tripartite agreement and the measures included therein, the Environment Administration has been allocated ten additional positions on fixed-term contracts. Eight of these posts fall under allowance group A2. All of these positions are currently open for application. In the event that these agents can be hired in the short term, the effects of these recruitments will be seen in early 2023.
In addition, the recruitment of a quality expert for the optimisation of processing processes dedicated to financial aid, a work done on an ongoing basis, is currently underway.
In view of the strong demand and the need to continue to make this aid available in a satisfactory timeframe for the years to come, it is necessary to continue to strengthen the subsidies and financial aid service and, consequently, the Environment Administration has requested additional posts for 2023.
Other planned measures to reduce application processing times: Administrative simplification and optimisations
In addition to the planned recruitments, the Environment Administration wants to reduce request processing times by outsourcing certain services and improve its service to citizens through extensive digitalisation.
Thus, specifications have been established to shortly launch a call for tenders for a pilot project to outsource certain technical work within the framework of requests for agreement in principle for energy sanitation projects. Subject to the acceptance of these specifications by the State authorities concerned and depending on the applications received, the contract could be awarded at the beginning of 2023.
In terms of digitilisation, projects are underway with the CTIE to dematerialise the procedures in relation to the “Klimabonus wunne” scheme as well as for the Bicycle Rewards. Once these projects have been finalised, these requests may be submitted via MyGuichet, as has already been the case since October 2022 for “wallbox” charging stations. In addition to the multiple advantages for the applicant, the submission of an application via MyGuichet allows automatic data entry with the Environment Administration, which reduces the time for processing applications. Other projects will follow.
Other reasons contributing to extended delays and solutions to overcome them
The processing time for a file is made up of several periods: the period during which the Environment Administration examines the request and the period during which the applicant must correct or complete his request, the latter not being limited in time.
It happens quite often that applications contain errors or that the documents to be attached are not correct or incomplete. In this case, the Environment Administration must ask the applicant to adapt his request. For Bicycle Rewards, for example, the number of such files represents approximately one third of the applications submitted.
It is therefore important to ensure that residents submit a complete application file in order to allow efficient processing of files and to avoid requests for additional information.
The Environment Administration strives to fill out its application forms with the necessary information to prevent the most frequent errors from recurring.
In addition, a “FAQ” including these scenarios will be made available to applicants.
What to do in case of questions?
Citizens have the option of contacting the Klima-Agence or the Environment Administration upstream and throughout their project. The Klima-Agence thus offers advice to citizens and can provide explanations regarding the aid adapted to their needs. Klima-Agence can be reached on 8002 11 90 Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 12:00 and from 13:00 to 17:00 as well as at www.klima-agence.lu.
The Environment Administration will soon make a “FAQ” (frequently asked questions) available to applicants (www.emwelt.lu) through which the most frequent questions and problems are answered.
For questions that are not answered there, the agents of the financial aid service are available for any question relating to the applications submitted and can be contacted via email at email@example.com for all questions concerning “Klimabonus wunnen” aid, and at firstname.lastname@example.org for all questions concerning bicycles and cars.
Applicants are requested to indicate the reference number of their application, indicated in the acknowledgment of receipt, in the subject of their email, in order to be able to quickly assign their mail to the agents in charge.