Myth : Rural areas are all about agriculture

Rural communities are increasingly thriving and diverse. Only 9% of all employment in rural areas comes from agriculture. Services now account for 56% of rural employment and 65% of the economic value. You're more likely to meet IT people than farmers

Press Releases

  • The Renewable Energy Directive is an opportunity to reshape rural Europe’s energy mix

    The FREE initiative welcomes the European Commission’s proposal for a new Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), underlining that Europe’s rural areas need a tailored approach if they were to become cleaner and more sustainable.

    The energy mix of Europe’s countryside is currently out of date, and overly reliant on solid and liquid fuels. In addition to being fundamentally incompatible with Europe’s energy transition, these fuels have very real day to day impacts on the health and wellbeing of Europe’s rural citizens. This overdependence on solid and liquid fuels means that rural-remote areas were responsible for an estimated 292 million tonnes (MT) of CO2 emissions in 2016.

    REDII can help change this, by boosting the contribution of renewables and the cleaner fuels which can complement their variability. It is equally important, however, to avoid creating legislation that does little to improve the lives of the already vulnerable citizens of rural Europe. This includes promoting solid fuels in heating. Continued reliance on solid fuels will not improve the often poor air quality of rural areas, and do little to improve the health of rural citizens.

    Furthermore, the small businesses which supply rural consumers should not be unduly burdened. Given the local, specialized nature of many rural energy suppliers, it is not appropriate to apply a one-size-fits-all solution. Specifically, Member States should have the opportunity to exclude small energy suppliers from the proposed renewable heating obligation. This will avoid vulnerable rural consumers being saddled with the costs of legislation, and give all players the flexibility to decarbonize effectively.

    We strongly believe that the recast Renewable Energy Directive marks an exciting new chapter in Europe’s energy transition.

  • Energy efficiency can be the first fuel of rural Europe

    Europe’s rural buildings consume more energy, less efficiently, than their urban counterparts. The proposal for a review of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) marks a golden opportunity to address this issue, and many others. The FREE initiative therefore welcomes this proposal, and supports efforts to create a directive which serves all of Europe’s citizens.

    Compared to the European average, the typical building stock in rural areas is older, larger, less insulated, not connected to the natural gas grid, and supplied with power via less reliable electrical networks. In addition, inefficient stoves burning highly polluting solid or liquid fuels are a significant source of indoor air pollution. This can have significant social impacts on rural citizens. In order to address these issues, it is important that the EED directly address rural areas and their concerns.

    Additionally, it is important to acknowledge that energy suppliers in rural areas are often smaller, more localized and more specialized than average. In order to protect their consumers, it is important to give them the flexibility to decarbonize cost effectively. To that end, we request that the EU continues to exclude transport fuel and fuel distributors and retailers in small energy sectors from energy efficiency obligation schemes.

    The review of the Energy Efficiency Directive is an opportunity to build on a landmark European policy. We strongly believe that by making Europe’s countryside more energy efficient, we can improve the livelihood of Europe’s rural citizens.

  • 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.