The Clean Energy for all Europeans package is now almost completed and its aim is to put consumers at the heart of the energy transition. Now that this important piece of legislation is almost finalised, a huge effort is necessary to ensure that in the implementation phase local and regional authorities (LRAs) are on board and have their role duly recognised. The main focus of the own initiative opinion is on the governance of the Energy Union regulation and on the role that LRAs have to play in the implementation of this regulation.
The opinion strives to contribute to the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) of the Member States (MSs) in order to take the LRAs fully on board. These plans were submitted by the MSs by December 2018. The EC will issue recommendations to each MS by June 2019, and then MSs are requested to submit their final NECPs by the end of 2019. Their implementation will take place until 2030, with revisions every subsequent ten year period.
The envisaged structure of the plans clearly suggests an integrated approach, dealing with climate issues together with active (locally produced, stored and consumed) and passive (i.e. efficiently used active energy) energy topics.
Regarding the NECPS, the opinion draws the attention to the role of LRAs and stakeholders in the implementation of these plans and also provides a push to MS governments to actively build on LRAs in this process as regards active and passive energy and the climate impacts of those.
This own-initiative opinion has three objectives:
to identify competencies LRAs have in implementing the energy union, considering both active and passive energy (given that LRAs are owners of energy generation facilities or operate public utility companies for heating, electricity, water supplies, etc.);
to analyse the ongoing process of drafting of the NECPs, with a view to their potential for vertical integration;
identify possible inconsistencies and conflicts between the different pieces of legislation in the field, the ongoing initiatives and best practices, as, for example, the Covenant of Mayors.
The CoR will provide recommendations towards an effective implementation of the Clean Energy Package through the Multilevel Energy and Climate Dialogue and demonstrate how this process can lead to more grounded and solid NECPs.
Rapporteur of the opinion Mr Ribányi discussed the status of the draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) with Permanent Representatives to the EU from 15 different Member States on the 16th of May 2019. Two of the specific topics of the meeting were the Multilevel Climate and Energy Dialogues and the role of Local and Regional Authorities in the drafting of the NECPs.
In the Communication by the Commission, on the 18th of June 2019, which accompanied the assessments of the draft NECPs by Member States, the Commission stated that "Member States need to ensure that the public has early and effective opportunities to participate in preparing the final plans, which should then include a summary of the public’s views.
In parallel, the Commission will also continue to secure the participation of all levels of society in a systemic way, while enhancing stronger synergies between European, national and local efforts via the NECPs. In the second half of 2019 and beyond, the European Commission will continue to promote an inclusive debate on the NECPs."
In follow-up to the opinion by Mr Ribányi (and reprised in the CoR Green Deal Resolution from December), the idea to launch a recurring forum to discuss climate and energy matters including the NECPs is being set up and discussed with the other institutional partners. This would facilitate cooperation between local and regional authorities, the European Commission, the European Committee of the Regions and Member States. This is important as the NECPs are documents that will need to be updated during the coming years.
During the European Week of Regions and Cities (7-10 October 2019), in the Workshop entitled "Regions and cities co-creating national energy and climate plans" Rapporteur József Ribányi (CoR ENVE Commission) presented his opinion on the NECPs as well as the study "The role of local and regional authorities in National Energy and Climate Plans, taking into account the recommendations by the European Commission". Mr Ribányi stated: "Local and regional authorities hold direct competencies in key areas of the energy transition. We manage large building stocks and transport networks, define urban planning and land use and can empower decentralised energy generation. Local and regional authorities are therefore indispensable in delivering the objectives of the NECPs."
Ms Paula Pinho (European Commission) explained that the NECPs are a challenge for the MS, as it is the first time MS have had to create a plan integrating their energy and climate policies. Ms Pinho advised using the Multilevel Climate and Energy Dialogues to be established in MS to the fullest, as these are part of MS obligations under Article 11 of the Energy Union governance regulation. Furthermore, the work on NECPs will not stop after December 2019 as they will need to continuously evolve so as to ensure no one is left behind in this energy transition.
The creation of National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) facilitates and requires integration of climate and energy policies in the Member States (MS). All panelists in this workshop agreed that the energy transition should leave nobody behind, and in order to do so, the sub-national levels should be involved fully. The involvement of these regional and local levels within the MS is encouraged by the European Commission, for example through Article 11 of the Energy Union governance regulation.
The European Green Deal communication from December 2019 gives substantial attention to the role of Local and Regional Authorities in achieving the goals of the Green Deal. (for example Climate Pact,...)
The European Commission will assess the final versions of the NECPs by June 2020. The Committee of the Regions will make sure to communicate further its views on this topic.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
- points out that many Member States consider the structures they have in place to be sufficient to achieve the goals of the public consultation and the multilevel climate and energy dialogue. The CoR recommends that the Member States critically assess these structures to ensure that the goals set out in the Governance Regulation for the public consultation and the multilevel climate and energy dialogue are fully met;
- points out that LRAs are important actors in the field of energy, both active and passive. They should be involved in the NECPs at national level as major investors, parties responsible for the upkeep of buildings, managers of public transport networks, authorities tasked with raising public awareness, agents in the fight against energy poverty, regulatory authorities responsible for town planning, land management and land use, managers of decentralised energy generation and authorities empowered to award green public procurement contracts;
- points out that the general public is not aware of the drawing up of the NECPs and that due to time constraints, the consultations processes accompanying the NECPs' development have so far not been as broad and deep as would be desirable;
- recommends that the CoR, as the body representing local and regional authorities, and as part of its pilot project of regional hubs, play a facilitating role in the implementation of the NECPs and the Multilevel Climate and Energy Dialogue, providing an additional avenue to reach the local and regional level outside of the Member States' internal frameworks;
- to this end invites the European Commission to consider co-organising a recurring forum to discuss climate and energy matters including the NECPs. This would facilitate cooperation between local and regional authorities, the DG for Climate Action, the DG for Energy, the CoR's ENVE Commission and Member States.