Brussels, 24 June 2014
The 2014 ManagEnergy Annual Conference was held on the morning of 24 June, the first session of EU Sustainable Energy Week 2014. Jointly organised with the Covenant of Mayors and Smart Cities & Communities, this year’s conference was once again very well attended (more than 350 participants plus web streaming) and focused on the problem of energy poverty, the role of local and regional authorities in addressing it through energy efficiency and other means, and innovative financing solutions for sustainable energy projects at the local and regional level.
Dominique Ristori, Director General of DG Energy, opened the event by highlighting the management of energy in cities as a top priority—‘a massive move from rural to urban areas’ is occurring across the globe, he said. In Europe, 360 million people are already concentrated in urban areas, responsible for two thirds of emissions. Ristori was quick to stress that the energy consumer should be at the centre of city planning, a topic that would be returned to later in the day.
Having just returned from a trip to Ukraine, Gerard Magnin of Energy Cities reported heartening news about 21 new Ukrainian cities—from the east and west of the country—that have signed the Covenant of Mayors in addition to the 50 that are already signatories. In general, interest in carrying out partnerships with EU cities is reportedly high in the country.
Two panel discussions took place, both moderated by William Gillett, Coordinator at the European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, and included panellists from the public sector, energy agencies, local and regional governments, universities, financial institutions, and media.
See the full programme and list of speakers here.
The subject of the first panel was energy poverty, a persistent problem in Europe with huge social and health consequences that, according to Prof Stefan Bouzarovski of Manchester University, is finally receiving the recognition it deserves.
A new document released today by DG ENERGY outlines newly defined rights that all EU citizens enjoy since the opening of the energy supply market. View it here.
Panellists agreed that energy efficiency is crucial to reducing energy poverty. Dirk van Evercooren of VREG, the Flemish electricity and gas regulator, stressed the need for customer protection; without it, he said, people will not feel empowered to make good energy choices. Fiona Harvey of The Guardian echoed this sentiment saying, ‘only with transparency in energy markets and fair prices can we tackle energy poverty.’ All agreed that while local projects are at the heart of the solution, these must be embedded in national strategy.
The second panel covered a range of innovative funding solutions: energy cooperatives (Som Energia, a REScoop member); the European Investment Bank’s new policy driven facilities including their ELENA facility and new risk assessment tools; the new generation of Cohesion Policy support; and a private start-up that helps investors to finance energy projects through crowd funding (Greencrowding).
As an illustration of the kinds of outcomes which might be expected in future from the Energy Challenge of the Horizon 2020 Programme for Research and Innovation, three EU funded projects were presented during the conference: NZEB2010, a project in which householders who have used the results from earlier research and demonstration projects to convert their own homes into nearly zero energy buildings are organising open door days, giving other house owners an opportunity to share their living experiences; SUSTAINCO, which builds on the results from a previous Concerto demonstration project promotes highly energy efficient building standards in seven countries around Europe; and RENGOV, which was presented by a member of the Smart Cities and Communities Sherpa group bringing together local authorities and investors to build new energy governance models.
Charlina Vitcheva, Director at DG REGIO, gave the event's closing remarks stressing that sustainable energy has a very high priority in cohesion policy funding, which all Member States can now benefit from. The first outline of partnership agreements show that 38 billion will go to low carbon economy. As the Commission is currently at the peak of its programming exercise, Vitcheva encouraged local public authorities to get involved: ‘don’t shy away, participate fully, scale efforts up into programmes and partnership agreements…we are fully prepared to work with you for the best energy solutions in your areas.’
Before closing the conference, Mrs Vitcheva presented certificates to each of the five nominees for the 2014 ManagEnergy Awards.
View pictures from the conference here