by Claire Roumet, Executive Director of Energy Cities
The energy climate reminds me of the present weather conditions: a long, almost never-ending winter seems to go on and on. The sky clears for a moment and then back to heavy showers. You may object that this is normal weather in March; but it’s starting to take its toll.
Similarly, whereas all the economic indicators show that nuclear power makes no sense and that renewable energy production, on the contrary, can meet all our needs and that solutions exist, France has announced that no nuclear station will close down before… a very uncertain date. The same applies to coal-powered stations in Germany, no one knows for sure when they will stop. In Belgium, the nuclear phase-out agreement entered into between the regions and the various political forces some two decades ago and due to come into force in 2025 barely reached a last minute, very Belgian consensus. And this month, the European Commission has announced its intention to spend €600,000 on convincing citizens of the wisdom of investing in new gas pipelines…
The reluctance to change energy model is as strong as an endless winter is long. With sometimes the impression of being stuck in the past, even when it seemed that certain issues had been settled. The debates between the Member States, the Commission and the European Parliament are like this change of season, uncertain. On the one hand, there is a lot of fine talk about opening up the system to consumers-prosumers-players but on the other hand, by imposing disproportionate responsibilities (e.g. balancing obligation) on all producers wanting to be full market players, the system is locked in, leaving local players, in particular the local authorities, out in the cold.
Fearing that the electricity market rules will ultimately not allow local authorities to be full players, Energy Cities has planned to join the “Small is Beautiful” campaign which was first launched by the solar industry and then joined by a number of major players. Energy Cities also supports the initiative launched by Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, with all the French local authority networks, campaigning for local governments to be involved in all energy decision-making.
Ensuring that local authorities are stakeholders in the system, alongside the historical players, is a necessity to make the energy transition happen. And citizens need to be involved, not to gain acceptance of the system or wind turbines, but to share in the benefits of the transition, to revive local areas, to achieve even greater engagement and to further change our lifestyles in the next stage, the summer this time.
Winter is over, spring is here, roll on summer!