Rural areas are important
economically, culturally and politically

About FREE

The FREE initiative aims to promote the use of sustainable energy within rural communities

The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative was created in 2010 to give a voice to all those who believe that rural energy needs are important – for those who live in the countryside, and for European society as a whole. Engaging and supporting rural communities is essential if government energy, climate and environment policies are to be realised. We want to make sure that policy makers acknowledge the importance of rural areas and communities.
A large proportion of Europe’s population lives in rural areas. These communities provide a significant proportion of employment and a major contribution to the economy. The welfare of rural communities is a government priority, particularly the creation of new jobs, new rural industry and the continued reverse of the trend towards urbanisation. Farmers and agriculture remain extremely important culturally, politically and economically, whilst the rise of smart villages includes new dimensions of rural entrepreneurship. Therefore, European rural communities are too important to be ignored on energy (and any other) matters.
Rural communities are at best ignored and at worst exploited, treated as either food factories or power stations. Rural communities have different energy needs and have a reduced and more costly choice than their urban equivalents. Rural individuals generally have a larger carbon footprint than their urban counterparts, and need greater access to cleaner energy choices. Energy legislation expects rural communities to do the heavy lifting as we move to cleaner, more efficient energy without considering their own needs for cleaner energy, better air quality, and greater, choice. Therefore, rural energy matters.


The FREE initiative aims to promote the use of sustainable energy within rural communities

Add new perspectives to the EU’s energy union and climate debate. Identify untapped potential in Europe’s off-the-grid areas to decarbonise and improve air quality in a cost effective manner. Fill in rural energy data gaps.
Support the uptake of decentralised, lower carbon, clean air, and high efficiency energy solutions – including renewable energies and partnership technologies.
Engage with EU policymakers and influencers to ensure that the specific sustainable energy needs of people, businesses, and communities in Europe’s off-the-grid and rural areas are considered when legislation is proposed. Emphasise the need for cost effective and efficient measures and solutions to make the energy transition a long-term and sustainable reality in rural areas.



The FREE initiative was created and funded in 2010 by SHV Energy, as its customers often live or work in areas beyond the natural gas grid and rely on decentralised energy solutions. A leading LPG distributor, SHV Energy also provides small-scale LNG and sustainable BioLPG to those without access to the grid. These cleaner energy sources help people to switch away from polluting oil and solid fuels, improving their quality of life and the quality of their environment. Day to day experience showed, that these rural energy consumers have specific energy needs which are often overlooked in government policies and by policymakers. As a family-owned multinational organisation, SHV Energy is committed to working sustainably with communities, stakeholders and policymakers to advance energy together. This group of specialised energy companies is committed to reduce carbon emissions and has the ambition to increasingly defossilize its products. SHV Energy is registered on the EU Transparency Register (ID number 292576015608-71).


FREE collaborates with research institutes and regularly commissions economists in the field of energy and rural technologies to collect the most relevant data. It supports ad hoc collaboration with third parties to advance mutual interests in sustainable rural energy development. FREE is also a member of theEuropean Parliament Intergroup on Rural, Mountainous and Remote Areas (RUMRA) & Smart Villages, co-chaired by MEPs Franc Bogovič (SI, EPP), Clara Aguilera (ES, S&D), Engin Eroglu (DE, RE), and Niklas Nienass (DE, Greens-EFA).

FREE is supported by a variety of groups and individuals, including technology providers, rural projects, civil society, regional representations, members of the European Parliament, trade associations, and other rural actors. FREE has a local chapter in Poland, called Forum FREE. To unlock the potential of rural communities through a greater energy choice and cleaner energy sources, FREE aims to work on a long-term strategy with stakeholders, policy makers and is encouraging new supporters sharing the same interests to join.