Myth : Rural areas have a low carbon footprint

Rural 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

The Future of Rural Energy in Europe

The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative aims to raise the awareness of the responsible energy options available to rural homes and businesses that do not have access to the same energy infrastructure, solutions and support as urban areas. This section of the website provides an initial overview of these FREE solutions.

People living in the more remote parts of Europe rarely have access to the natural gas grid and the electricity supply can be unreliable and hugely inefficient. As a consequence they often have to rely on relatively high carbon solid and liquid fuels which are being used with aging technologies.

The initiative was launched by SHV Energy and is designed to stimulate the debate within the political and NGO communities to ensure the unique energy needs of the European rural population are considered when relevant policy is considered and legislation is proposed.

European energy has to become more efficient, secure and less-carbon consuming in the decades to come to ensure a sustainable future. To achieve a truly balanced cleaner European energy mix, the specific needs and social circumstances of rural communities can no longer be overlooked.

More than half of the European Union's population live in rural areas which cover 90 per cent of its territory. Of these there are at least 30 million homes and businesses which will probably never have access to the natural gas grid and instead largely rely on high carbon energy sources.

Technologies that have the potential to help these areas meet the EU’s climate goals are available today. Industry and government have a role to both increase awareness and encourage more widespread uptake of these high efficient, lower carbon rural energy solutions. By making more informed lower carbon energy choices, the potential for carbon and financial savings can be huge. As such, the needs of rural areas have to be at the heart of European and national energy policy.

The FREE initiative aims to put the needs, solutions and practical policy proposals to deliver a cleaner, competitive and secure energy for rural communities and businesses on the political agenda. Europe needs clean and realistic energy solutions for rural areas now. Very low carbon solutions that include gas and renewable energies are available and fit the needs of rural communities and benefit the environment.