Cleaner and more energy efficient energy solutions, propelled by targeted EU policies, could transform today’s energy profile for rural communities, according to a White Paper on ‘Policy Recommendations for Sustainable Rural Communities in Europe’ released today.
The paper was published by the Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative, a platform dedicated to realizing the potential of rural communities through greater energy choice. FREE developed this White Paper as part of the launch of its FREE Choices Campaign, aimed at overcoming regulatory barriers and offering tools to help choose energy solutions particularly suited for rural and remote areas.
Across Europe, rural communities are faced with a series of energy challenges. These were highlighted in last year’s Ecofys study on ‘Rural Energy in the EU’, which revealed that a different fuel mix is used in rural areas, with generally more polluting fuels and higher emissions per capita. These are caused by the greater use of coal and heating oil and higher emissions of pollutants as NOx, SOx and Particulate Matter affecting the environment and human health. Without particular attention paid to rural areas, the EU’s goals of a competitive, low-carbon and secure energy supply are thus jeopardized.
“Those who live in cities and those who live in remote and off-gas grid areas deserve the same types of choices – cleaner and healthier energy choices – and at the moment we simply don’t have that. They need support for new initiatives,” MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij underlined at the launch.
Introducing a strategy on renovation of buildings in rural areas, streamlining direct investments into energy efficiency projects, supporting lower carbon and renewable energy, and ensuring that energy policy is ‘rural proofed’ will guarantee a level playing field between rural and urban energy users, according to the paper’s findings. More specifically, the White Paper calls for policymakers to:
1)Create direct investment in rural energy efficiency for greater environment and social benefit and remove barriers towards the roll-out of new technologies;
2)Promote a balanced lower-carbon, low-polluting portfolio of energy solutions for rural communities;
3)Ensure that environmental, social and health impacts are taken into consideration when setting taxation rates and incentives for fuels or energy technologies.
The White Paper also proposes some thought-provoking ideas for further stakeholder discussion, including a 3% annual renovation target for rural buildings and a 40% gas / 60% renewable energy mix.
The FREE Choices Portfolio provides an initial overview of available energy sources and technologies such as Micro-CHP, condensing boilers, heat pumps, solar thermal, solar PV, LPG, LNG, biomass, insulation and high performance glazing. These technologies could significantly contribute to higher energy efficiency levels in rural areas, whilst stimulating growth and jobs in Europe’s rural regions.
Alongside the White Paper, the FREE initiative developed an online tool – FREE Choices Portfolio – which illustrates the low carbon and highly efficient technologies available to rural energy consumers today. “It is designed to act as a guide for policymakers and other members of the European energy community when they consider legislation or even specific rural energy choices. With the right policy framework in place, these technologies can be made more accessible, for the benefit of rural energy users and the environment,” Andrew Ford of SHV Energy, founder of the FREE initiative, explains.
The Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative was created by SHV Energy in 2010 and is supported by a wide variety of groups, such as CEJA, Cogen Europe, Euromontana, Glass for Europe, Renewable Energy Foundation, AEGPL, Podlaskie Region, BDR Thermea, RINNAI, ACRE, NEA, Tecnocasa Climatizzazione, Polyurethanes, EC Power, Regional Office of Silesia Region and RURENER, which are committed to improving the lot and realizing the potential of rural communities through greater energy choice. This pan-European platform is aimed at promoting the use of sustainable energy within rural communities through research, energy advice and promotion of lower carbon energy options available to consumers living beyond the natural gas grid.
ABOUT ‘FREE CHOICES CAMPAIGN’
The FREE Choices Campaign aims at raising awareness among stakeholders about currently available energy solutions which are lower carbon, energy efficient, commercially available and affordable. In order to truly roll-out these solutions, policy barriers to energy efficiency, climate change, air quality and affordability need to be removed. The FREE Choices Campaign was launched in November 2012, with the publication of a ‘White Paper’ and a ‘FREE Choices Portfolio’ – an online tool outlining cleaner and energy efficient technologies currently available in rural areas: www.freechoices.eu
These activities constitute the launch of the FREE Choices Campaign. The FREE initiative will follow up with a stakeholder engagement programme to bring this discussion to the next stage. Interested stakeholders are welcome to further contribute to this debate.
Join the debate online through Facebook and do the ‘FREE quiz’ to get rural energy facts and to support rural communities.