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The integration of the EU's energy system is key to achieve a climate neutral Europe  

The priority is to set the energy-efficiency-first objective at the local and regional level as the basis to deliver an optimal transition towards a more integrated energy system

The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has presented an opinion on the EU Strategy for Energy System Integration, published by the European Commission in July 2020 . Today, the EU's energy system is technically and economically inefficient, and leads to substantial losses in the form of waste heat and low energy efficiency. Energy production and consumption account for 75% of the EU's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. An integrated energy system is therefore crucial to delivering on the European Green Deal's objective of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

Energy system integration refers to the planning and operating of the energy system “as a whole” and across multiple energy carriers- electricity, heat, cold, gas, solid and liquid fuels - infrastructures and end-use sectors, such as buildings, transport or industry.

The CoR opinion Powering a climate-neutral economy: An EU Strategy for Energy System Integration focuses on energy-efficiency-first, increasing renewable energy production, integrating and empowering local and regional authorities, consumers and businesses in the energy transition and ensuring that the path towards climate neutrality is based on cohesion principles and does not lead to increased energy tariffs for citizens nor businesses.

The CoR rapporteur Gunārs ANSIŅŠ (LV/Renew Europe) , Deputy Mayor of Liepāja, said: " The EU Strategy for Energy System Integration has a role to play in the economic recovery of local and regional authorities, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. It is important to set the energy-efficiency-first objective at the local and regional level. Likewise, energy system integration can help local and regional authorities achieve greater energy efficiency as the available resources would be used for the transition to more efficient energy technologies."

The EU's assembly of local and regional representatives calls on to the European Commission and Members States to put into place a systematic approach to involve local and regional authorities in the energy transition, in particular within the development of national energy and climate plans. The CoR reiterates its demand to set up multilevel climate and energy dialogues as well as multi-level platforms to promote the active involvement of local and regional authorities, civil society organisations, businesses and other key stakeholders in the governance of the energy transition.

The CoR points out that Europe's regions vary greatly in terms of their electricity demand, generation potential and available infrastructure, even within country borders. Therefore, in addition to international connections between systems, further effort must be made to develop intranational and interregional infrastructure while also increasing the capacity of transnational connections.

The CoR stresses the key role local energy production and storage capacity play to ensure that critical infrastructure can operate continuously in all regions. The CoR additionally highlights the necessity to remove physical barriers for the development of high quality interconnections between all EU regions to guarantee a genuine integration of the electricity system.

The CoR reiterates the need to keep increasing the production of energy from renewable sources and agrees with the European Commission on the potential of offshore renewable energy and the necessity to support new offshore renewable technologies (e.g. tidal, wave and floating offshore wind and solar technologies). Members also agree that it is essential to ensure the reskilling and upskilling of the workforce in line with the specific needs of the offshore renewable energy sector.

Considering that the EU accounts for only 5% of global methane emissions, the EU's assembly of cities and regions points out that even the most ambitious EU plans to reduce them will have little impact on reducing the planet’s overall GHG emissions.

Local and regional leaders strongly defend that imports of goods into the EU's single market should only be allowed from countries (or parts thereof) that provide the same standards for GHG reduction as the EU. Only in this way will it be possible to ensure that the EU climate targets do not adversely affect the competitiveness of the EU and its businesses at global level.

As the European Union still imports 58% of its energy, mostly through oil and gas, the integration of the EU's energy system will improve security of supply while reducing dependence and use of fossil fuels. Better integration of energy systems will also increase energy savings and diversify and localise energy production, thus making Europe's economy more resilient - a key aspect in crisis scenarios.

The draft opinion was presented during the CoR's plenary session on 5, 6 and 7 May 2021.

Background:

The European Commission's Energy System Integration Strategy sets out a vision on how to accelerate the transition towards a more integrated energy system, in support of clean energy and a climate neutral economy while strengthening energy security, protecting health and the environment, and promoting growth and global industrial leadership. For more information click here .

The opinion Powering a climate-neutral economy: An EU Strategy for Energy System Integration falls under the remits of the CoR's Green Deal Going Local (GDGL) working group. Launched in June 2020 and composed of 13 local and regional elected representatives , the GDGL working group has the objective to guarantee that EU cities and regions are directly involved in the definition, implementation and assessment of the numerous initiatives that fall under the European Green Deal, the EU's sustainable growth strategy to reach climate-neutrality by 2050.

Contact:

David Crous

Tel. +32 (0)470 88 10 37

david.crous@cor.europa.eu