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Regional approach to renewable energy

In order to tackle the energy challenges of Europe in the future, a regional approach should be employed, according to a white paper from the Assembly of European Regions (AER).

The white paper was published following the European Regions Energy Day launched by AER, the Ministry of Environment, Nature Protection and Transport of the Land Baden-Württemberg, Germany, as well as GE Energy.

The study contains result from a survey of 67 regions from 25 European countries – both from the EU and outside the EU.

Grid and transmission

The study finds that the energy infrastructure in most European regions needs to be overhauled, something that “opens up an excellent opportunity to rapidly deploy new energy efficient technologies such as smart grids and smart meters.”

40% of the regions that responded to the AER survey said they are ready to introduce smart grid technologies such as smart meters and smart metering projects in coming years.

Renewable energy

Several of the regions surveyed are already producing more than 20% renewable energy, which is the EU’s target for 2020.

The development of environmental and renewable energy technologies is many of the regions “was prompted by the economic downturn and urgent need to find a road to a quick recovery.”

Furthermore, “the composition of regional RES [renewable energy sources] portfolios highlights an incredibly high ability of regions to maximise their territorial assets.”

Renewable energy is usually more developed in decentralised regions, and “the outright majority of the participation regions (97%) assume that regions can have positive impact on mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. 92% of them position energy as one of the key priorities for the years to come.”

Several of the regions highlight the importance of financial schemes for the development of renewable energy by local investors. 80% of the participating regions use European funds for regional energy activities.

Broader picture

The study says “it is critical for energy not to be approached as an isolated, stand-alone issue, but rather as part of the overall sustainable development effort.

“Energy should be integrated into broader regional strategies through new and innovative policy formulations and partnerships with diverse stakeholders.”

European level benchmarking is seen as essential by regions, as it helps identify, understand and adapt best-practice from other regions.

Concluding remarks

The study concludes that “we need to find new models of sustainable energy leadership. New actors and institutions should be also involved in the process of fostering the European Union’s energy security.”

Furthermore: “Regions are best placed to harness the potential of renewable energy sources, but to do so, they need to be empowered rather than hampered in order to effectively tackle Europe’s energy challenges. It is at the regional level – by initiating a constructive dialogue between local government, citizens, regional business and research institutes – that we can create effective synergies in the future.

“Regional and local authorities should be therefore considered as key partners in the development of new energy policies in European and national levels.”

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