The Energy Union badly needs a “revolution from below”

In Italy, experts are talking about the emergence of a “revolution from below”, steered by local authorities which have helped the country increase its share of renewable energy from 15% to 35.5% in just a few years’ time, with huge socio-economic benefits. At European level, this revolution and the role cities play in it is mostly confined to side programmes and dedicated initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors or the Urban Agenda. While it is important that cities are supported through targeted mechanisms to advance the energy transition, it is also crucial that their own priorities and contributions find an echo in existing, high stake EU policies such as the strategic plan of building an Energy Union.

Over the course of this summer, the European Commission plans to flesh out its proposal for the governance of the Energy Union. Unfortunately, early versions and preliminary documents surrounding this exercise show that the local dimension is noticeably absent from the discussions…

Indeed, while the European executive puts a lot of effort into guiding Member States in cooperating with one another and creating a common energy market, at the moment zero guidance is planned on how involve local authorities, among which 7,000 have adopted voluntary energy action plans through the Covenant of Mayors. To bridge this gap, Energy Cities has worked on a draft of what such a guidance document could look like, and sent it for inspiration to key policy makers in the European Commission and Parliament.

In a nutshell, the document makes the case for the local potential for savings and renewables to be reflected in the National Energy and Climate Plans which will form the backbone of the 2030 framework.

The European Commission always champions the need for diversification. But beyond the urge to merely change suppliers (from Russia to the Caspian Sea countries for example), maybe the time has come to look at diversification in the sense of relying increasingly on local, resilient sources of energy. As the EU legitimacy has hit rock bottom levels, this local approach will also contribute to the much-needed social and territorial cohesion that was once promised to European citizens.



Alix Bolle

Publication date

June 27, 2016