The 40th anniversary of the first European energy agency, Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Energie Environnement, was also the occasion for FEDARENE’s Board of Directors to meet in Lyon and assess the recent outcomes of the Clean Energy Trilogues as well as the proposals for the next EU budget. Do the EU targets match the ambitions of local and regional authorities? Is the proposal of allocation of means appropriate to make the transition happen?
Serge Nocodie, FEDARENE’s Vice-President for Climate Change and President of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Energie Environnement (France) explains that “the formal recognition in the Renewable Energy Sources Directive of renewable energy communities and self-consumption in the energy transition is definitely a step forward in the way we conceive our energy system. On our own territory, initiatives like the “Centrales Villageoises Photovoltaïques” have demonstrated how empowering citizens may accelerate the energy transition and give real meaning to our sustainable policies”.
Local and regional energy agencies have long been facilitators of citizen led initiatives and promoters of decentralised governance models that can accelerate the deployment of renewable energy systems and the uptake of renovations. However, such schemes must be supported by appropriate funding opportunities. “The member states must now agree on financial programmes that support projects closest to the citizens. Taking into account the experience and expertise of local and regional authorities in these discussions will enable the design of accessible and complementary funding programmes” added Serge Nocodie.
The recent agreement on the energy efficiency directive has well brought some disappointment as regions and their energy agencies feel the potential for energy savings is still not fully tapped. “We congratulate the negotiators of the European Parliament in raising the ambitions of this important piece of legislation, it is however regrettable that the negotiations did not conclude with the European Parliament’s initial proposal of a 40% binding headline target on energy efficiency that could have delivered the full potential of energy savings in terms of GHG emission reduction, jobs, health and quality of life. Regions and cities must now focus their attention on the EU Multiannual Financial Framework post-2020 to secure financial programmes that enable them to upscale their investments and achieve their climate and energy targets. To this end, the announced complementarities and synergies between European Structural and Investment Funds and EU’s Research and Innovation programmes are welcomed as long as they will be concretely feasible. To this aim the administrative procedures have to be streamlined and simplified. The development of the “single rulebook” is a much-appreciated novelty, but it must include the insight of local and regional stakeholders who are the actual beneficiaries”, said Maria Fabianelli, Vice-President for Energy Efficiency in Buildings and Smart Cities and Division Director at IRE Liguria, Italy.
The local and regional experts highlighted that the Energy Union’s 2030 objective of reduction of 40% of greenhouse gas emissions could only be reached by designing national strategies with a multilevel dialogue and backed by a strong cohesion policy. Ricardo Gonzalez Mantero, Vice-President for Renewable Heating and Cooling and Director of the Regional Energy Agency of Castilla y Leon (Spain), considered “it is encouraging to see a European governance framework for our Energy Union that aims at strengthening the accountability of Member States in their climate and energy strategies. The National Energy and Climate Plans must take into account as much as possible the achievements and commitments of local and regional authorities who have been frontrunners in their energy transition and innovators in investment schemes”.
Exemplary local and regional initiatives in the area of sustainable energy highlight how beneficiaries of the structural funds are taking ownership of the European objectives and engage meaningfully in achieving common goals. “We must highlight that the cohesion policy has been instrumental to the financing of successful renewable energy projects and energy efficiency strategies in our regions, therefore cuts must be kept to a minimal. Coal-intensive regions particularly need intensified support from EU’s financial programmes in order to achieve their technological, social and economic transformation. For this purpose, platforms such as the ones on coal regions in transition and smart specialisation should not only continue their activities but see their capacity strengthened” added Ricardo Gonzalez Mantero.
The refocuses suggested in the current proposals on territorial cooperation also brought some concerns to regions who have benefitted from the transnational Interreg programmes. Hannu Koponen, Development Manager in the Regional Council of Central Finland reminds us that “while we welcome the focus on cross-border synergies through new initiatives such as a European Cross-Border Mechanism, we must not forget the added value for our territories brought by Trans-European programmes like Interreg Europe who enabled regions from across the EU to learn from each other and innovate together”. The insight of local and regional experts will contribute to designing pragmatic and efficient financial programmes and their dialogue with national and EU level representatives will need to be pursued in the upcoming months in order to achieve this.