EU policy brief by Claire Roumet : Reclaim power! #COP21

By Claire Roumet on 30 November 2015

One crisis follows another: migration last month, terrorist attacks this month. In the news, the order of importance of these topics is changing, but urgency degree remains the same for all. None of these crises is being solved. On the contrary, as time goes by, they seem to reinforce each other.

Let’s replace “pessimism” with people, power, political courage

I will neither claim that (limited) access to energy sources is the only origin of current problems nor that the energy transition will solve it all. However, we cannot ignore that there is an urgent need for citizens to be (back again) in the driving seat of their life. They need to know that they have the power to change and shape the society they live in. And yes, the local energy transition is a global objective which can contribute by giving us a common vision.

To make it happen we need empowered local communities and cities that have the legitimacy to invent their future with new ways of dealing with economy and energy. A good and recent example is the victory of the city of Vaxjö (Sweden) over the Swedish competition authority (see our article. Their very ambitious fossil-fuel free district heating policy is legal, and that’s excellent news.

European decisions supporting local solutions

The European energy efficiency directive requests opting for the greenest solutions. However, EU policies are not always helping: one example is the Water Framework Directive currently being revised, which virtually prevents any new hydropower station from being installed given the level of requirements to protect the environment. The main problem is not the environment rule of course, but the fact that the process will be so heavy that any smaller project would not be able to bear the authorization costs.

The same happens with the State aid guidelines for renewable projects: the rules might look logical, but they prevent smaller players from entering into the same game as bigger ones. There is an urgent need to revise the rules and to go for a stronger support of local solutions, giving cities a real choice. In the case of State aids, criteria and procedures need to be democratically decided, and not only by competition authorities. Wrongly designed, these aids can negatively impact sustainable political choices and be an obstacle to the energy transition.

When talking about local and public powers being inhibited by big economic players, we first often think of trade rules. The current TTIP debate is emblematic of this fight. We might overlook some decisions which, at the end, might have an even bigger impact on cities’ decisions for their energy future. Energy Cities is currently preparing a contribution to several EU consultations to advocate for a better integration of local decisions when it comes to finding the best energy mix. Be prepared, we will need your views on the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Renewables Directive!


I think you get the picture: throughout the month, and especially during the COP21 negotiations that started today, we #reclaimpower!


Join us at our 3-hour event on 3 December in the city-center of Paris (no accreditation needed):
“COPowering change: the role of LOCAL GOVERNANCE in delivering the energy transition”
You can still register today or tomorrow – we’re already over 90 participants but there is still some space for you! Register here.

Meet Energy Cities’ members and staff at COP21! See here.
Follow us on Twitter: @energycities #disruptiveenergy @COP21 #Paris2015

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