Myth : Rural areas have a low carbon footprintRural communities often have higher carbon footprints than their urban counterparts as well as significant quality of air issues. This is due to a number of factors: the need to drive longer distances, a lack of energy choice leading to the use of polluting fuels (coal, heating oil, wood), and the agricultural output of greenhouse gases
MEP Vicky Ford has become a friend of FREE – watch the interview!
MEP Vicky Ford, who represents the East of England constituency in the UK, has recently become a friend of the FREE initiative. She spoke in an interview with FREE to convey her feelings about how the initiative would aid her specific area, and the energy challenges her constituency faces. She talked about how 20% of households in the Eastern region are not connected to mains gas, and that there are indeed very remote communities within the entire region. The East of England has a large proportion of older building stock, and many inhabitants of these areas need innovative solutions to meet their energy needs.
Have a look at Vicky's views on the rural energy situation in her constituency, the East of England.
The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative gives a voice to all those who believe that rural energy needs are important issues both for those who live in the countryside and for European society as a whole. Back in 2010, FREE was created under the umbrella of SHV Energy, based on its experience in delivering lower-carbon energy to rural areas. Since then, the initiative has grown and meanwhile incorporates many supporting organisations. Visit the FREE websitewww.rural-energy.eu or contact the FREE Secretariat for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org, tel: +32 2 234 68 94).
FREE Solutions Video Contest – the Competition is now open!
Do you live in a remote or rural area? Or a small town in the European countryside? Do you have a specific way of dealing with your energy concerns?
FREE has launched its ‘FREE Solutions Video Contest’, and would like to invite inhabitants of remote and rural regions in Europe to submit how they face their specific energy challenges into a short two minute video.
The subject area is broad; perhaps each year you need to make an appointment to fill up your oil tank with expensive and polluting heating oil? Or perhaps you have installed renewable energy or energy-saving technologies in your house or business? Is your home extremely well insulated and energy efficient?
To participate in the contest, please make a 2-min (max.) home-video (e.g. using your smartphone or a handy cam) showing us the challenges you face on a daily basis or the sustainable energy improvements made in your residence or business. Submit your video and get a chance to win one of the two cool and dynamic GoPro Action Cameras, allowing you to share your rural energy adventures from your viewpoint with the rest of the world!
To view the rules of the contest, the ‘how-to’ page, and all submission details, please click here.
Greens/EFA Conference – ‘Greening Regional Policy – Achievements and Perspectives’
On 30 January FREE representatives attended ‘Greening Regional Policy – Achievements and perspectives’, a Greens / EFA conference attended by several MEPs, NGOs and various think tanks. The two main themes discussed were ‘sustainable investment in regions’ and ‘the partnership principle’, a key principle of structural funding which often becomes a key resource for regional and local development. The main points of discussion were that;
- Regional policy is progressing well, however there are many aspects of regional and cohesion policy that can be improved. The WWF states that member states should ensure that 20% of structural funds are devoted to climate action and the green economy within regions.
- The WWF also stated that not enough funding was being streamlined for spending on biodiversity preservation.
- There was also a common acceptance that there is too much ‘red tape’ and bureaucratic constraint surrounding the implementation and time scale of regional programmes. Programmes were also termed as being ‘too complacent’ in implementing their intended outcomes. The European Commission was also urged to engage more in the finalization of operational programmes within regions.
- It was also speculated upon that there was a significant wastage of funds within Cohesion policy, and that there is a large potential scope to improve this problem.
- It was stressed that horizontal and vertical investment needed clearer definition and that they should be used equally to ensure the optimal development of regional programmes.
FREE believes that regional funding is vital for the development of remote and rural regions, which often do not possess the economic means alone to create and sustain programmes which aid the area as a whole. Initiatives which promote local and small-scale energy production are especially vital for off-grid regions which have a vulnerable security of supply. The European Partnership Projects have already displayed potential in aiding remote and rural regions in meeting their energy challenges. Regional programmes often also display the ability to help the renovation of buildings, and energy efficiency is indeed a key aspect of building renovation.
European Parliament calls for the development of a comprehensive rural energy strategy for 2030
5 February 2014, Brussels, Belgium - The European Parliament calls on the Commission to draw up a rural energy strategy as part of the 2030 framework for climate and energy policies, in order to analyse some of the particular challenges confronted by off-grid energy consumers and make a series of policy recommendations to Member States.
The European Parliament has made a tremendous step forward to create a cleaner and more energy efficient countryside by calling for a wide-ranging energy strategy for rural areas; a call included in an own-initiative report on 2030 Energy and Climate Framework adopted earlier today.
“A rural energy strategy could be a true steppingstone in improving the energy situation of the countryside”, said MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, Member of the REGI Committee. “Cleaner and more energy efficient energy solutions, propelled by targeted EU policies, will significantly transform today’s energy profile for rural communities”, he added commenting on the results of the vote.
Integrating rural areas into the EU’s long term planning is key in achieving environmental, economic and societal goals. The European countryside is a fertile ground for cleaner energy, which is not yet an obvious choice in rural areas. Furthermore, there is vast potential for energy efficiency in rural areas through the improvement of old and inefficient building stock. The EU must also address such problems as energy affordability, as well as the high carbon footprint of solid and liquid heating fuels in the countryside.
“As the voice and conscience of Europe’s citizens, the European Parliament has recognised the challenges that rural areas are facing, whilst embracing the vast potential of these areas. A rural energy strategy offers a real opportunity for the EU to address those challenges and to create a fully integrated energy plan towards 2030, which embraces the needs of urban areas as well as the countryside,” said Andrew Ford of the FREE initiative in reaction to the vote.
The FREE initiative believes that the current energy situation of rural dwellers could be overcome by a set of policy measures, including a 40% binding energy efficiency target, and a 40% CO2 emissions reduction target by 2030 as well as a 3% annual target for renovation of rural buildings by 2020. The FREE initiative therefore very much welcomes the push for the two binding targets in today’s report and it encourages the Commission to take the European Parliament’s call for the binding targets on energy efficiency into consideration when reviewing the Energy Efficiency Directive later this year.
The FREE initiative also calls upon the European Commission to develop a rural energy strategy in order to efficiently and effectively help our countryside become cleaner and more energy efficient.
The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative gives a voice to all those who believe that rural energy needs are important issues both for those who live in the countryside and for European society as a whole. Back in 2010, FREE was created under the umbrella of SHV Energy, based on its experience in delivering lower-carbon energy to rural areas. Since then, the initiative has grown and meanwhile incorporates many supporting organisations. Visit the FREE website www.rural-energy.eu or contact the FREE Secretariat for more information (email@example.com, tel: +32 2 234 68 94).
2030 Framework for Climate and Energy has been released
On 22 January, the European Commission published a long awaited Communication setting out a 2030 Climate and Energy Framework. The proposals are the most wide-ranging set of Energy and Climate proposals since 2008 and should determine the way forward for EU energy and climate policy for the next 15 years.
Main elements of Commission proposal include:
- A binding greenhouse gas reduction target: A centre piece of the EU’s energy and climate policy for 2030, the target of a 40% emissions reduction below the 1990 level would be met through domestic measures alone, meaning that Member States will not be able to offset their reductions by paying for carbon cutting in other countries.
- The Commission also proposed an EU wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27% above 1990 levels by 2030. However, this will not be translated into national targets through EU legislation.
- Energy efficiency: The role of energy efficiency in the 2030 framework will be further considered in a review of the Energy Efficiency Directive due to be concluded later this year. The Commission will consider the potential need for amendments to the directive once the review has been completed.
FREE supports the Commission’s ambition to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030 and sees a binding target for CO2 reduction, with specifics per sector depending on the emission reduction potential, as the best way forward for Europe’s ambitions. Specific attention should be given to encouraging GHG emission reduction in rural areas, where the greater share of oil and coal leads to relatively high greenhouse gas emissions per capita.
Rural areas also offer immense opportunities for the deployment of renewables (in electricity, heating & cooling and transport). FREE supports their further development beyond 2020 if they respond to local needs in a cost-efficient manner. They should be adapted to local circumstances, whilst also complying with sustainability criteria (for first-generation biofuels and biomass). They should also be widely supported by the local population to avoid issues of public acceptance (for wind, biogas, hydro), especially in the case of large-scale installations reaching industrial scope.
What’s more, FREE believes that the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive later this year might be not enough, and a binding target for energy efficiency is needed for 2030. Energy savings have proved to be disappointing, essentially due to the absence of a binding target for 2020. This needs to be corrected, especially as energy efficiency is the most cost-efficient way to achieve CO₂ emissions reductions. This aspect should be an absolute priority at a time when Member States are going through a severe economic crisis affecting their spending possibilities.
The Commission’s Climate and Energy Framework is available here.
FREE supports a sustainable energy mix for rural areas and wants the EU to reduce its reliance on CO2 intensive fuels such as heating oil, coal, and centralised electricity generated by high carbon fuels and promote instead cleaner fuels available in off-grid areas such as lower carbon gaseous fuels and renewable energies.
Energy Efficiency – a fuel you may not have heard of
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has repeatedly referred to Energy Efficiency as ‘the world’s first fuel’, given its advantageous position in reducing energy consumption. Indeed, as buildings account for 40% of Europe’s energy use and a third of its greenhouse gas emissions, improving energy efficiency in buildings has become an overarching priority, leading to the adoption of two Directives on the Energy Performance of Buildings and the Energy Efficiency Directive.
The European Commission has long presided over energy saving schemes. The Energy Efficiency Directive which was adopted in 2012 aims to bring about the culmination of the original goals of the 2020 energy savings targets. First agreed upon in 2007, these targets primarily aimed to bring about an energy savings target of 20% below the energy projections for the EU by 2020. In short, the aim is to save the equivalent of 368 million tonnes of oil in energy usage. The directive of last year aims to close the gap of that remaining energy usage – about 190 Mtoe - before 2020, and in by doing so meeting the original target. But how do rural and remote regions fit into this picture?
Energy efficiency in remote and rural regions are significantly lower in rural regions, due to the nature of many of the prevalent buildings which tend to be older and widely in need of some renovation. Small investments in energy efficiency can already significantly reduce expenditures on heating and electricity. This could particularly benefit cash-strapped farmers, rural businesses and households. Energy efficiency has long been cited as a key aspect to the FREE vision for rural and remote areas.
It is therefore advantageous to treat energy efficiency as a ‘vital aspect of the future global energy mix’ and FREE encourages all Member States to implement obligations concerning the Energy Efficiency Directive and the 2020 energy savings targets. What’s more FREE believes that it would be beneficial for the European Commission to issue guidance documents for Member States to ensure that the Energy Efficiency Directive also benefits rural areas.
A new year – and renewable sources are in fashion
Just before Christmas on the 23 December, eight EU states, including Germany and France, sent an open letter to Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard of the European Commission calling for ‘robust’ renewable energy targets within the much anticipated climate and energy package to be released on 22 January.
Renewable energy sources are a fundamental aspect within the proposed FREE energy mix for the future of rural and remote regions in Europe, which we believe is a vital component in progressing away from carbon-heavy energy sources such as coal. Renewable sources, combined with lower-carbon emitting fuels such as LPG or LNG, provide a sustainable, efficient and reliable energy mix for rural and remote regions often in off-grid locations. Remote regions also often possess the capabilities to be considerable renewable energy producers, and the notion of these recommendations also provides inhabitants of these areas with better employment and economic security aspects.
Following this, on 9 January the 2030 Package was passed through a joint-committee vote in the European Parliament, with 66 votes in favour, 42 against and 3 abstentions. The compromise amendments can be found here. The process now heads for the plenary first reading in February.In a broader sense, MEPs have voted for three binding targets in the 2030 Framework;
1) 40% GHG emission reduction target
2) 30% Renewable energy target
3) 40% Energy efficiency target
FREE awaits the package release on 22 January and hopes that the European Commission does not miss this vital opportunity to encourage the reduction of CO2 emissions whilst simultaneously supporting an ambitious renewables target. With these two goals in mind remote and rural regions will undoubtedly benefit.
The Danish government presents the programme of the Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union ‘Europe at work’
Together with the Minister for Economic Affairs and the Interior, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for European Affairs, the Prime Minister presented on 6 January 2012 the Programme of the Danish EU Presidency for the next six months.
The first Horizon 2020 calls are now published!
Check out all rural energy related tenders.
The Air Quality Package – One must not forget rural areas!
On 18 December 2013 the European Commission released a ‘new policy package to clean up Europe’s air’. According to the Commission’s press release, the clean air policy package updates existing legislation and further reduces harmful emissions from industry, traffic, energy plants and agriculture, with a view to reducing their impact on human health and the environment.
Following the publication of the package Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "The air we breathe today is much cleaner than in past decades. But air pollution is still an 'invisible killer' and it prevents many people from living a fully active life. The actions we are proposing will halve the number of premature deaths from air pollution, increase protection for the vulnerable groups who need it most, and improve quality of life for all. It's also good news for nature and fragile ecosystems, and it will boost the clean technology industry – an important growth sector for Europe."
The package contains a number of components, including:
- A new Clean Air Programme for Europe with measures to ensure that existing targets are met in the short term, and new air quality objectives for the period up to 2030. The package also includes support measures to help cut air pollution, with a focus on improving air quality in cities, supporting research and innovation, and promoting international cooperation;
- A revised National Emission Ceilings Directive with stricter national emission ceilings for the six main pollutants;
- A proposal for a new Directive to reduce pollution from medium-sized combustion installations, such as energy plants for street blocks or large buildings, and small industry installations.
FREE welcomes the new air quality package and would encourage the Commission to include emissions in rural areas as part of the the Clean Air Programme. Off-grid rural areas have limited access to cleaner energy sources and are pushed towards using polluting energy sources such as coal and oil, which emit substances dangerous to human health. Addressing problems with NOx, SO2, and Particulate Matter (PM) emission will be key to ensuring a safe environment for all in the future.
FREE believes that the connection between airborne pollutants and human health is an issue which needs to be addressed by European legislation. Exposure to the cocktail of particles and toxic chemicals generated by using dirty fuels such as coal and oil is responsible for widespread sicknesses and reductions in life expectancy. PM is highly toxic and is consequently one of the most dangerous of these pollutants to human health.
This issue needs to be immediately tackled by the European Union!
More information about the clean air policy package is available here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-1274_en.htm?locale=en