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The energy mix of Europe’s countryside is currently out of date, and overly reliant on solid and liquid fuels.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.