Myth : Rural areas are all powered by alternative energy anyway

A large number of rural families and business are 'off-grid' and therefore have to make other choices. But in fact, the stark choice is most often between the polluting (coal, wood or heating oil) or renewable energy technologies which do not have the government support to make truly viable

Press Releases

  • Putting rural issues on EU agenda: Industry leaders & policymakers join the RUMRA Intergroup for a breakfast briefing

    On 1 June, the Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas (RUMRA) Intergroup, of which FREE is a board member, hosted a breakfast briefing to discuss the EU’s need for a rural agenda. Chair of the RUMRA Intergoup, MEP Mercedes Bresso called for more interactions between rural and urban areas and presented a new RUMRA brochure to raise more awareness on this issue.

    This event was an incredible opportunity to bring together industry leaders as well as an impressive number of Members of the European Parliament, including Chair of the URBAN Intergroup, Jan Olbrycht, and MEPs Jozo Rados, Franc Bogovic, Momchil Nekov, and Herbert Dorfmann.

    All participants suggested solutions to better connect rural to urban areas.

    Speakers brought up the notion of territoriality to better bridge the gap between rural and urban areas. This can be done by improving basic infrastructure, transport and water supplies, or as MEP Mercedes Bresso said, by developing more integrated projects in rural areas.

    MEPs underlined the need for more funding towards projects supporting small and medium sized companies. To make this successful, there is a need for more information about the regions in need, decreasing the administrative burden for funding, and translating specific needs into tangible action.

    The event also allowed a discussion about digitalisation and mobility in rural areas. On this topic, the speakers underlined the necessity to build “smart villages” by developing Internet connectivity, which would improve work flexibility and stimulate economic growth.

    This breakfast briefing allowed attendees to better understand the growth potential of rural areas and reaffirm the RUMRA Intergroup’s commitment to help build political consensus and trigger growth for regions that are often overlooked.

    Follow the important discussion points from this event on our Twitter account.

  • UK drafted a new plan to reduce air pollution

    The British government announced a new draft plan to reduce air pollution due to traffic. The plan tackles a critical health issue causing nearly 12,000 premature deaths per year in the UK (source: European Environment Agency).

    It introduces restrictions on older vehicles and recommends the implementation of “Clean Air Zones,” where the most polluting vehicles would be charged. This plan will be open to public consultation until June 15 and a final decision will be made by July 31.

    The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative welcomes this new plan, as it will encourage urban, but also rural populations to choose cleaner means of transportation, which will benefit the environment.

    We hope that this initiative will strongly encourage policymakers and citizens to fight for a more sustainable energy system, especially in rural areas, where there is a growing need for easier access to cleaner energy as well as lower carbon emissions.

  • Reducing Energy Poverty with National Renovation Strategies

    The Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) released an interesting factsheet recommending national renovation strategies to alleviate energy poverty, a critical modern issue that affects at least 50 million Europeans.

    Energy poverty is a pressing issue for the people whose well-being is challenged by low household income, high energy costs and energy inefficient homes.

    According to BPIE, deep renovation is a clear a solution that would increase the warmth of homes, lower energy bills, and improve the quality of life of the energy poor.

    Additionally, energy poverty is particularly prominent in rural and decentralised areas.

    By switching to less polluting fuels and by introducing the right energy efficiency measures, up to 100 Mt CO2 can be saved by 2030, as stated in our recent report. By putting the rural populations’ needs on the European Union’s agenda, the EU can accomplish the long-term goals to fight climate change and enable the transition to a more sustainable energy system.

  • Rural Areas recognised in the Second State of the Energy Union

    On 1 February 2017, the European Commission published its second Communication on the State of the Energy Union (available here), which reports on the progress of one of the Juncker Commission’s flagship strategies.

    The FREE initiative congratulates the Commission for the progress the EU has made towards its climate and energy goals, and we are especially proud that the Commission has addressed the energy needs of rural areas. In the State of the Energy Union, the European Commission stated that:

    “Cities and rural areas are crucial for the modernisation and decarbonisation of the European economy.”(…)“Cities and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts. At the same time, rural areas, as suppliers of renewable resource for the bioeconomy, and cities, as centres of innovation and growth and engines of economic development, are also – and increasingly so – part of the solution.”

    At the same time, the FREE initiative welcomes the Commission’s move to empower consumers, including rural dwellers, and alleviate fuel poverty.

    Addressing the energy needs of rural areas and putting them on European Union’s agenda represents an important step forward in tackling climate change and transitioning to a more sustainable energy system. The recently published FREE report titled ‘Why Rural Energy Matter’ (available here) provides solutions, which can save 100Mt of CO2 emissions.

    Air pollution in rural areas is also a pressing issue. Rural areas are reliant on polluting energy sources (coal, heating oil), which deteriorate rural air quality. This can have dramatic effects on public health; The life expectancy of rural inhabitants in France is shortened by 9 months as a result of poor air quality, according to the WHO. It is thus important that the Commission takes concrete action to improve air quality in rural areas.

    One way to improve air quality is to make rural areas more energy efficient. The Commission is taking positive steps in this area, with its new Smart Financing for Smart Buildings initiative hoping to boost renovation in public and private buildings. Nonetheless, similar funding mechanisms have overlooked rural areas in the past, and we encourage the Commission to continue pay special attention to the needs of rural citizens.

  • Rural Energy discussed in the European Parliament

    On 29 November, the Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative under the umbrella of the RUMRA intergroup organised a breakfast debate to discuss the so called ‘Winter Energy Package’ and its impact on rural energy. The breakfast was hosted by Mercedes Bresso, MEP (S&D, Italy), and brought together a mix of both policymakers and industry representatives. The debate was moderated by Mr Andrew Ford of the FREE initiative.

    The speakers, included Fulco Van Lede, CEO of SHV Energy, Brendan Devlin of the European Commission, and Mercedes Bresso, a Member of the European Parliament and the Chair of the Rural, Mountainous, and Remote Areas (RUMRA) Parliamentary Intergroup.

    Mr Devlin of the European Commission affirmed that there is indeed a need to pay more attention to rural areas, as they tend to be overlooked.

    The highlight of the Breakfast debate was the launch of a new report on ‘Rural Energy Matters’ (available here) by Fulco Van Lede, CEO of SHV Energy. The report brings significant insights into the problems associated with the energy needs of rural areas, including the issues of air quality and fuel poverty. Furthermore, it presents solutions which when adopted will result in 100 million tonnes of CO2 savings and a significant improvement in air quality in rural and mountainous areas.

    It was a pleasure to introduce a report prepared by the FREE initiative, that paints a picture of a better future for rural energy, in which around 100 million tonnes of CO2 can be saved whilst improving the quality of the air, health and life of rural populations, said Fulco Van Lede, CEO of SHV Energy after the event.