Introduction - Local initiatives lead the way
A European challenge
Energy consumption in the European Union is rising, and most worryingly so is our dependence on fossil fuels - principally oil and gas - imported from outside the Union€s borders. At the same time, the EU has signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, committing us to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in 2012 by 8 %, in comparison to 1990 levels. In November 2000, the European Commission adopted a Green Paper, setting out the strategy to reduce the EU's dependence on imported energy. The twin focus of this strategy is to improve energy efficiency and to increase the use of energy from renewable sources - which exist within the EU. The Green Paper on Energy Efficiency of June 2005 lists a number of options to save 20% of energy consumption by 2020 in a cost effective way through changes in consumer behaviour and energy efficient technologies. Moreover, the Biomass Action Plan of December 2005 provides a basis for expanding the production and use of biomass across the EU.
Whilst action at EU and national levels is a vital part of realising these objectives, without action at the local level, there is no chance that they can be achieved. The drive to improve energy efficiency requires end-users to examine their energy consumption and consider means to reduce it € but without reducing their standards of living. Initiatives such as installing insulation or more efficient heating/cooling equipment, or simply ensuring that lights and equipment are switched off when not in use all bring savings in energy consumption, and reduce the cost of bills. Increasing the use of renewable energy sources is often appropriately tackled at local level. Individual installation of photovoltaic panels to capture solar energy, or district heating plants fired by biofuels, or local wind farms to provide electricity to an area, are different examples in which local communities can commit themselves to using renewable energy.
Local - or individual - initiatives are critical to achieving the EU's targets in the energy sector. The more such initiatives are taken, the closer we come to meeting our commitments. But if local citizens do not take up the challenge, we cannot reach our objectives. Certainly there is an initial investment that needs to be borne, but in the longer term, these initiatives will pay for themselves in cost savings, in addition to reducing environmental damage.
Energy agencies as local facilitators
Information and encouragement are at the heart of successful local initiatives to encourage take-up of energy efficiency and renewable energy use. Individuals, organisations and companies which stand to benefit from such measures often do not have the resources to investigate the possibilities and, therefore, do not consider taking them up. To help provide local citizens and organisations with the information and encouragement needed, the European Commission has supported the creation of local energy agencies across the EU. These are set up by public authorities (regional or local authorities made up of elected representatives) and partner organisations, although the agency itself must be established as a separate legal entity. The role of energy agencies is to promote and disseminate good practice in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energies.
Achieving the European Union€s ambitious goals for improving energy efficiency and increasing the share of energy from renewable sources cannot be left to governments and utilities alone. If these goals are to be reached, individuals - householders, companies, organisations - need to make choices, and take responsibility for their own energy use. Local energy agencies are about informing and encouraging local citizens to take these decisions, so that local actions bring direct benefits to local people. Ideas for local initiatives are frequently simple, and have already proved their worth elsewhere, but successful implementation requires commitment and resources.
The European network of energy agencies
Today there are some 400 energy agencies within the EU and new agencies receive support on a regular basis, through the Intelligent Energy - Europe programme. In particular, the Commission expects to approve funding for a number of additional local and regional energy agencies in the new Member States in the coming months. EU funding is used to get energy agencies up and running, and lasts for a maximum of three years, beyond which the agency is expected to be viable. In principle, EU funds may cover up to 50 % of an agency's budget in the first three years. The remainder of the budget comes from the local authority and other public or private partners. In many cases, an energy agency will generate funds from its activities which can then be reinvested in its work. Each energy agency works with local people in its area. Given that these local citizens are directly responsible for more than half of all final energy consumption in the EU, the focus of energy agencies is on disseminating good practice in demand-side management to consumers. Good practice may come from all over Europe and beyond, although in many cases, the details need to be adapted to different local contexts. The need to access as wide a range of examples of good practice as possible on behalf of local citizens means that local and regional energy agencies across Europe need to communicate and co-operate with each other.
The ManagEnergy initiative
To support the many energy agencies operating across Europe - as well as other organisations working in the energy field at local and regional levels - the Commission is funding the ManagEnergy initiative. ManagEnergy's primary aim is to facilitate the sharing of information. It does this through its website and helpdesk, and through events and publications, by providing a forum for exchange of ideas and experiences. In particular, ManagEnergy supports the collection and dissemination of good practice throughout the network. It also helps organisations find partners to implement projects, and provides information on EU policies in the energy sector and on funding opportunities.
Exchanging good practice
The basis of the ManagEnergy network is exchanging ideas and experience between local actors. Schemes which have worked well in one situation may fit in well in another, or may work with some adaptation, or may not be suitable for a given context. The essential basis for exchange of good practice is circulating the available information to as wide an audience as possible. People's different reactions to ideas mean it is essential that as many local actors as possible have access to good practice examples: whilst one person may not be able to envisage a scheme in their own situation, their colleague may be able to visualise it clearly. Equally important is the ability to contact a counterpart, who has the experience of implementing a scheme, and can discuss informally the benefits and difficulties in implementation, as well as the key criteria for success.
ManagEnergy provides a range of information channels for the exchange of dissemination of good practice, of which this brochure is just one. This brochure is the second in a series entitled 'Local Energy Action - EU Good Practices'. The first volume was published in October 2004, and can be downloaded in PDF format from the this website, which also includes a searchable listing of over 650 case studies and other documents. The more people that see these examples the more chance they have of being replicated in other parts of Europe. Whilst the details would undoubtedly change when implemented in a different context, the principles will remain the same - not just the design of the scheme, but its results as well.
Selection of case studies
This brochure contains just 12 examples of good practice from energy agencies across Europe. Each has been validated by the European Commission against a set of objective criteria, and they have been chosen for their strong contribution to the promotion of energy efficiency and/or renewable energy use, and for their strong possibilities of replication. The selection in the following pages demonstrates the wide variety of spheres in which energy agencies operate, from small rural districts to large cities, and in Member States of varying sizes and historical energy policies and infrastructures. Furthermore, different agencies have chosen to work with different target groups. Some have worked with individual householders, some with companies, some with whole villages or districts, some have gone straight to young people in schools to promote energy efficiency, and some have worked directly with public authorities to change policies and oversee their implementation.
The examples of good practice in the following pages represent a wide variety of approaches, and all of them could be replicated elsewhere. But there are many other approaches which could be taken, and this brochure is meant to stimulate thought rather than provide all the answers.