EU Elections 2024: Challenges and opportunities for regions in transition

The next EU elections are just around the corner – on the 6th to 9th of June 2024, European citizens will elect the new representatives of the European Parliament. Our Secretary General Seamus Hoyne shares his view on key challenges and opportunities ahead.

EU Elections 2024: Challenges and opportunities for regions in transition

FEDARENE and its members are active at the European level but also at the local and regional levels. What role will energy agencies play in the European elections? What will be their key objectives and messages?

European elections represent an incredible opportunity to elect Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and policymakers who share our objectives and values – people who stand for an ambitious energy transition and fossil fuels phase-out and will work to support it inside the EU institutions.

The 2019-2024 EU institutions have very concretely shown their ambition for a climate-neutral Europe which materialised through the EU Green Deal. Now, the new representatives will have to deliver this vision and make sure it is implemented on the ground. For this reason, it is of utmost importance to elect representatives who will take seriously the measure of the climate and energy issue and help regional and local stakeholders in effectively implementing the Green Deal. Energy agencies, in this sense, will continue to act as multipliers of this message to all their partners and stakeholders. The EU is supporting and cooperating with the regional and local levels, therefore this election, its importance, and the opportunities it brings shouldn’t be overlooked.

Apart from being multipliers raising awareness on EU elections as a lever for the energy transition, energy agencies stand ready to collaborate with upcoming policymakers. Energy agencies are available to provide their expertise as local and regional market facilitators and as independent bodies involved in implementing European legislation in the territories.

Overall, the EU Elections are a unique opportunity to vote for a democratic, socially fair and sustainable energy transition, including a complete phase-out of fossil fuels. That is the main message that we should spread.

After the European elections, a new group of 27 Commissioners will be chosen for the European Commission, pending approval by the newly elected European Parliament. What do you see as the potential benefits of this change?

This new momentum will bring new cooperation opportunities with new-coming policymakers. Since energy agencies are now officially mentioned in the Energy Efficiency Directive, the newly elected decision makers will have an extra incentive to reflect on their role. We count on them to recognise that local and regional policy agencies act as independent market facilitators, and as main expertise providers on energy-related challenges in the regions – making them key actors for EU policies implementation.

This renewal in EU institutions might also open fresh paths for cooperation to build more ambitious policies in favour of an energy transition based on an immediate fossil phase out; policies that encourage multilevel governance and acknowledge the role of regional and local stakeholders in implementing the Green Deal and climate law; policies that better enhance adaptation to climate change and enable the rapid development of renewable energy technologies. Scaling deployment of existing technologies for example in the field of bioenergy, heat pumps rollout in the short to medium term as well as new innovations in off-shore wind, hydrogen and smart energy systems will all need local/regional engagement. This will be of utmost importance to achieve the ambitious climate targets of decarbonising our societies by 55% by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Therefore, energy agencies are looking forward to upcoming EU policy developments enforcing the energy transition, like for example the revision of the regulation on multilevel governance, new provisions for 2040 climate objectives, wind package, and additional developments regarding the main energy directives (EED, RED, EPBD).

The new representatives of the European Parliament and European Commission have the chance to ensure that the next five years to 2030 will be remembered in history as a critical milestone in the fight against climate change. That’s as much of an opportunity as a challenge.

Talking about challenges, which ones do you foresee from these institutional and political changes?

The Green Deal has brought unprecedented progress for the green energy transition. It has planted the seeds, let’s unfold the leaves as rapidly as possible. This is the main challenge of the next institutions. Energy agencies stand ready to partner up and join forces!

It is not going to be easy, the balance of power in the European Parliament and in the European Commission might change with a risk of increasing conservative, less climate-ambitious, or even climate-detrimental forces sitting in EU institutions.

In addition to the challenge of implementing the Green Deal, there can be a risk of throwback on climate and energy policies, or at least of a break in the development of those policies, which would be quite concerning. This is a challenge for us all, including regions, and local and regional energy agencies, as it would send the wrong signal to local and regional stakeholders.

Furthermore, the narrative on climate action must continue to focus on one of investment versus costs. There are social and economic implications of the energy transition and the transformation of our energy systems. We must ensure that it is a just transition, that it enables individuals, communities and regions to gain from the transition and achieve the sustainability goals that we all aspire to deliver on.

What are energy agencies main demands for the upcoming term?

The energy transition to renewable energies is a major challenge and one that can only be met in a coordinated and mutually supportive manner across the European Union: EU institutions and regional and local energy agencies hand in hand.

As energy agencies unite around the objective of a fast and clean energy transition, we call on the upcoming EU institutions to achieve together the expected European climate and energy objectives. To do so, efforts must be intensified in frontrunning energy efficiency, enhancing energy sufficiency, developing one-stop-shops in the renovation wave, fast-tracking renewables, supporting the rise of renewable energy communities, implementing adaptation to climate change, and alleviating energy poverty, among other action points. Our manifesto, available in the previous pages, provides more details on the ways of cooperation between EU institutions and local and regional energy agencies, and elaborates on the political priorities that should be undertaken to keep the energy transition on track.

FEDARENE encourages the EU Institutions and the Member States to collaborate with and utilise the expertise of local and regional energy agencies and their approximately 4,000 staff across Europe to translate EU ambitions into concreate reality on the ground.

This interview is extracted from our publication ‘Sustainable Regions in Action‘. Discover more here!