Innovative energy solutions in Europe's regions and cities are leading the way to a successful transition to clean energy. To demonstrate latest energy R&I policy developments, the European Committee of the Regions welcomed experts in renewable energy, local and re gional representatives and EU policy-makers to a conference on Friday 24 March. The event was organised in the context of the Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP).
Markku Markkula, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), called for the CoR members to become ambassadors for sustainable energy. "Currently the EU is dedicating almost 45 billion euros to low-carbon economy, but we need to do more to optimise synergies with the support of initiatives such as the KEP", he said in a video message.
This view was shared by Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Deputy Director-General of European Commission DG for Research and Innovation, who pointed out the instrumental role of cities and regions in increasing the ownership of the energy transition. She noted that Commissioners Corina Crețu (Regional Policy) and Carlos Moedas (Research, Science and Innovation) are working together to increase synergies between the Horizon 2020 programme and European Structural and Investment Funds.
Putting energy efficiency first, demonstrating global leadership in renewables and delivering a fair deal for consumers are the main objectives of European Commission's Clean Energy package which was presented in November 2016. Achieving the EU's 27% renewable energy target by 2030 requires new R&I developments, for example in the fields of off-shore wind and bioenergy. A call was made for an EU-wide initiative for aviation biofuels which offer the only long-term solution for carbon neutral aviation.
CoR members from four EU regions presented case studies in the field of energy policy:
Saxony-Anhalt, Germany: In comparison with the rest of Germany, Saxony-Anhalt is leader in renewable energies which account for almost 50 % of gross energy production (27 % share for wind, 13,6 % bioenergy and 7,1 % photovoltaic). The energy transition sector provides jobs for 1 in 40 employed persons. "Investments and availability of financing are the main drivers of development", said Katrin Budde (DE/PES), Member of the Landtag and CoR rapporteur on bioeconomy.
Lodzkie Region, Poland: The region, which accounts for 20 % of energy production in Poland, is investing in renewable energies to replace coal and other fossil fuels. Ensuring support from EU structural funds and creating partnerships with industry has been a key to success, noted the President of the Region Witold Stępień (PL/EPP).
Sligo County, Ireland: The peripheral North-Western region is characterised by disperse and low population base and poor infrastructure. Meanwhile Ireland is one of the EU countries that are most dependent on energy imports. Brexit is posing a further threat to the Single Energy Market in Ireland. The region is trying to respond to these challenges by developing clean energies. "I dream of making our region independent with renewable energy", Jerry Lundy (IE/ALDE) from Sligo County Council said.
Pays de la Loire, France: The region is a leader in renewable marine energy. Two offshore wind farms will represent 1/3 of French wind offshore capacity by 2020. It has invested in academic excellence, R&I and created four competitiveness clusters. Christophe Clergeau (FR/PES), Member of the Regional Council, highlighted that the sector is already providing employment for almost 1000 persons.
Director of ERRIN Richard Tuffs concluded: "There is no point to talk about innovation without investment. We also need to look at the impact at territorial level and the future role of Interreg Europe to help regions work together."
The Knowledge Exchange Platform (KEP) is a concept jointly developed by the European Committee of the Regions and DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission. It is aimed at presenting new R&I solutions, innovative products and best practices in response to the societal challenges European regions and cities are facing.