What’sEUp: Where are the structural measures to tackle the energy crisis?

Negotiating in times of crisis is no easy task

There are many legislative projects underway at the European level concerning the climate and energy transitions and almost all are struggling to be completed. Between the lawmakers that the energy crisis has made more ambitious and others that are more cautious, the trialogues drag on and the proposals are sometimes disappointing. Yet these texts are key to providing a structural response to the energy price, geopolitical, social and climate crises.

Let’s look at the progress of some of the European texts that will largely concern local authorities in the coming years.

Member States called for an ambitious revision of their National Climate and Energy Plans

The National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) will have an important direct impact on local government’s actions and targets in the next 2 years. These 2030 horizon plans are due to be revised by June 2024 after the first draft in June 2023. They aim to translate European ambitions into national targets and measures and are subsequently territorialized in most Member States.

The European Commission published at the end of November its guidance to Member States for the rewriting of these plans and asked them to raise their ambitions in line with those of the “Fit for 55” legislative package currently being finalized and the crisis measures taken by the Commission since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It will therefore be a much more in-depth exercise than a simple adjustment of the plans written in 2019.

On the method, the European Commission insists on the obligation of Member States to dialogue with local authorities and other stakeholders (Article 11 Regulation of the Energy Union Governance and Climate Action) and to conduct public consultations. Energy Cities, through its European projects EUCitycalc and NECPlatform, will push for a better consideration of the local level and a co-construction of these plans.

Permitting: an attempt to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in times of crises

Heavy administrative processes and a lack of capacity from the administrations to handle the massive demands of permits are slowing down the deployment of renewable energy everywhere in Europe. It is one of the main barriers that we should have dealt with years ago.

The European Commission has therefore proposed a Regulation to accelerate
the deployment of renewable energy, welcomed by the Council and the Parliament. The latest version negotiated foresees a reduction of the time taken to issue permits for the renovation of renewable energy projects to six months. This period will be reduced to three months for certain solar and heat pump installations. Member states will ensure that the RES projects are prioritized “when balancing legal interests”, particularly about certain environmental concerns.

This should therefore quickly impact local and regional governments in their plans to deploy RES or as permit issuers.

“Fit for 55” package: trying to make it through

EU legislators expected to finish negotiations on some key texts such as the energy efficiency directive or the renewable energy directive for Christmas, finally, the trialogues will agree under the Swedish Presidency of the Council starting in January 2023.

As explained in previous What’sEUp articles (here and there), these texts are key regarding the development of local renewable capacity but also for the transition of heating and cooling systems and buildings in municipalities.

Energy Cities continues to advocate for the introduction of mandatory heat and cooling plans for municipalities with more than 35,000 or 50,000 inhabitants (under debate), accompanied by a very strong technical and financial support mechanism. To this end, we have collected good practices that we will continue to explore next year in anticipation of the future transposition of the provision in the Member States.

The Gas Package, which focuses on the promotion and integration of low-carbon gases and in particular hydrogen in the existing market, is still under discussion.  We discuss further its implication in this article.

This article has been written with the financial support of the ADEME and ECF.