The objective of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) is to accelerate investments in Europe’s transport, energy, and digital infrastructure networks, so it is a key EU funding instrument for infrastructure investment at European level.
CEF supports the development of high performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy, and digital services. CEF investments fill the missing links in Europe's energy, transport, and digital backbone. The CEF Regulation, which underpins this programme, came into force on 1 January 2021.
The Connecting Europe Facility for Transport (CEF-T) is the funding instrument that is meant to realise the European transport infrastructure in accordance with the objectives of the EU guidelines for the development of the trans-European transport network. The instrument contributes to the implementation of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) by financing key projects to upgrade infrastructure and remove existing bottlenecks whilst also promoting smart, interoperable, sustainable, inclusive, accessible, safe and secure mobility. These projects cover all EU countries and all transport modes (road, rail, maritime, inland waterways, air).
It aims at supporting investments in building new transport infrastructure in Europe or rehabilitating and upgrading the existing one. CEF-T focuses on cross-border projects, as well as projects aiming at removing bottlenecks or bridging missing links in various sections of the Core Network, and on the Comprehensive Network under the TEN-T. Nine transport corridors and specific horizontal priorities have been established to focus on pan-European integration and development. CEF-T also supports innovation in the transport system to improve the use of infrastructure, reduce the environmental impact of transport, enhance energy efficiency, and increase safety.
In terms of key actions, CEF-T provides funding for actions in support of
- new technologies and innovation, including automation, enhanced transport services, modal integration, and alternative fuels infrastructure for all modes of transport
- improving transport infrastructure resilience, in particular to climate change
- urban nodes, multimodal logistics platforms, maritime ports, inland ports, rail-road terminals, and connections to airports of the core
- studies for the development of the comprehensive network and actions relating to maritime and inland ports of the comprehensive network
- re-establishing missing cross-border rail connections on the TEN-T
- sustainable freight transport services
- projects of Common Interest (PCIs) to connect the trans-European network with infrastructure networks of neighbouring countries
Under the revised CEF Regulation, an action that has received a contribution under CEF may also receive a contribution from the RRF and InvestEU, provided that the contributions do not cover the same costs. In terms of funding synergies, some CEF and Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe projects work in the same thematic area, while tackling issues from different perspectives. The results can complement each other and advance the overall technology and related infrastructure. These can also be seen in the area of hydrogen. For instance, the MEHRLIN project in northern Italy, received different funding sources, namely CEF, Horizon 2020, and LIFE. The overall objective of MEHRLIN is to demonstrate a financeable demand-led business model for hydrogen refuelling stations, whilst the LIFE programme is financing the deployment of a fleet of 28 hydrogen fuel-cell cars (Zero Emission LIFE IP). Through the H2020 JIVE project, 27 fuel-cell buses for the same location will also be supported.
The Connecting Europe Facility programme 2021-2027 will address climate change and contribute 60% of its overall financial envelope to co-financing actions supporting climate objectives and moving fast towards zero-emission mobility. CEF will fund alternative fuels infrastructure through blending rolling call for proposals, by continuing the already established approach of combining CEF grants and financing from finance institutions to achieve a higher impact of the investment support.
The facility will be mainly implemented in cooperation with implementing partners, such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other national promotional banks which can facilitate access to financing.
What type of hydrogen related actions can be funded
It will support investments for
- the roll-out of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure on the TEN-T road network, with an additional buffer distance (driving distance) of 10 km
- the roll-out of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure on sections of the TEN-T rail network for which a derogation from the electrification requirement has been granted in line with Article 12(3) or 39(3) of the TEN-T Regulation, or on sections located in isolated networks as defined in Article 3 (u) of the TEN-T Regulation
- the roll-out of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure dedicated to public transport in urban nodes and on the TEN-T road network, with an additional buffer distance (driving distance) of 10 km
- the deployment of hydrogen alternative fuels for TEN-T maritime ports, inland waterways and inland ports
Costs related to vehicles or vessels will not be eligible, except in the case of inland waterway and short sea shipping, if an initial number of vessels is needed to kick-start the use of the supported hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. In such cases, the eligible cost shall be limited to the difference of cost between a fossil-fuel vessel and the zero-emission vessel(s) proposed. Costs related to the energy storage facilities and/or deployment of electrolysers based on Renewable Energy Sources (RES) for electricity supply and a sustainable use of water resources for the production of green hydrogen for the purpose of transport will be eligible as synergetic elements under the conditions specified in the call text.
The instrument focuses on mobility infrastructure investments, hence there is a certain limitation on the hydrogen-related actions that can be funded under CEF-T.
- Projects on land road and off road vehicles fleet deployment would fit under CEF-T only for elements of the projects that are linked to transport infrastructure. To illustrate, a case for such a project would be where a hydrogen fuel cell bus roll-out in a city may necessitate special private hydrogen refuelling stations fit for these buses. In that case, only the hydrogen refuelling station element of the project would be eligible for CEF-T funding, not the entirety of the project. However, the entire project could be supported by the financing of the implementing partner or other finance institution, even potentially guaranteed by the InvestEU (blending operation).
- Shipping activities (transmission and distribution) need to have a direct link to port infrastructure to benefit from CEF-T, an example of which would be ship bunkering infrastructure.
- Another example of this could be for inland distribution (for instance if the distribution is part of a transport project – i.e. needed to supply hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) and projects relating to onshore power supply for shipping.
The overall financial envelope for the implementation of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for the period 2021-2027 is €25.8 billion in current prices. This budget is allocated as follows: €12.83 billion under the CEF general envelope; €11.286 billion under the CEF cohesion envelope and €1.691 billion under the CEF military envelope.
The total budget of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Facility (AFIF) for the period 2021-2023 is €1.575 billion (€1.2 billion under the general envelope and €375 million under the cohesion envelope). Under the AFIF, hydrogen alternative fuels projects shall be supported by both the general and the cohesion envelopes. The fixed co-funding rate is 30% under the general envelope and 50% under the cohesion envelope.
Conditions for application
The specificities of the conditions for application are defined in specific calls for proposals: AFIF-GEN and AFIF-COEN. The AFIF requires the combination of grants and financing. The applications shall include the proof of the agreement of the implementing partner or finance institution to provide financing to the proposed action.
In terms of eligible entities, only legal entities and joint ventures established in EU countries shall be eligible. Please find all the FAQ clarifying the eligibility: AFIF-FAQ
How to apply and when
CINEA, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency implements the Connecting Europe Facility. Applicants are invited to apply for financial support for eligible projects following a call for proposals issued by the European Commission. To apply, the applicant must receive the approval of the EU country where the project is located.
Projects can apply via the EU Funding and Tenders portal. There will be regular calls for proposals in the CEF-T for the period 2021-2027. As regards the AFIF rolling call for proposals, the call is always open with 5 cut-off dates: 19 January 2022; 7 June 2022; 10 November 2022; 13 April 2023; 19 September 2023.
In accordance with the Commission Implementing Decision C(2021) 5763 on the financing of the Connecting Europe Facility - Transport sector and the adoption of the work programme for 2021-2027, the evaluation of the proposals will take into account the following award criteria, as appropriate: (1) Maturity; (2) Quality; (3) Impact; (4) Priority and urgency of the Action; (5) Catalytic effect of Union assistance.
These include elements such as economic, social, and environmental impact, including climate impact (project life cycle benefits and costs), cross-border dimension and consistency with the corridor work plans under TEN-T, synergies between the transport, energy and digital sectors, need to overcome financial obstacles such as those generated by insufficient commercial viability, high upfront costs or the lack of market finance, European value added, and consistency with the EU and national energy, and climate plans.
The grant support is provided in the form of reimbursement of costs incurred by the beneficiary.
The disbursement of grants is governed by grant agreements and by Title VIII EU Financial Regulation.
Background: Connecting Europe Facility (2014-2020) (European Commission).
CINEA Executive agency website Transport infrastructure (europa.eu)
Past programming webpage 2020 CEF Transport MAP call | Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (europa.eu)
Example(s) of supported projects
Project Title: Zero Emission Valley
Description: The overall objective of this action is to foster fuel cell electric vehicle use in France, significantly contributing to the European alternative fuels implementation strategy. The action will deploy a network of hydrogen refuelling stations (HRS) at regional level to reach a critical mass for the market uptake, laying foundations for future national and European hydrogen mobility. The action consists of deploying 20 HRS, of which 14 will be supplied by onsite electrolysers, and 1,000 fuel cell vehicles in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. ‘Zero Emission Valley’ is aligned with France’s ‘H2Mobilité’ programme, the roadmap to a national roll-out for hydrogen, which aims to deploy 600 HRS in the country by 2030.
Max EU contribution: €10,131,800
Level of EU funding: 20% of eligible costs
Link to project: Project website