What’s EUp ? Showing, Sharing, Shaking

Energy Cities' EU policy intelligence bulletin


How to reach climate neutral cities? And what is the critical role of the EU in this process?

Energy Cities’ members have a clear “3D” destination: moving towards a Decentralised, Democratised and Divested energy future. Part of this agenda is now reflected in European legislation notably thanks to ambitious provisions on energy governance and community energy. But while the where we want to go remains important, there is an ever urgent need to focus on how we get there.

As the next 5 years have to put us on the right track, Energy Cities’ policy team has identified in its EU manifesto and the related briefings key policies to transform the EU. With this new edition of the What’s EUp, we are introducing the “3 S”. Quite easy to remember, showing, sharing and shaking are the three key processes actually influencing the cities’ ability to reach the 3D destination.

SHOWING

“Showing” might sound a bit passive but it can actually be a game changer. When 2050 scenarios at EU or national level fall short of acknowledging the role of decentralised energy solutions, showing the potential of all the local resources in the cities and regions’ backyards is not a trivial exercise. In this context, a growing number of cities have understood the needs for mapping instruments to chart the potential of their geothermal or heat resources for example or show how many households and community groups could be powered by solar energy.

Last month for example, on the day of the sun, Lisbon’s energy agency launched SOLIS, a platform to offer citizens the possibility to collect and directly feed information on solar energy potential in the city. Lisbon has a target of 103 MW installed solar capacity in the city by 2030 and SOLIS will be the cornerstone of this strategy. But showing also means looking at the energy transition as a democratic exercise and being transparent and accountable about public investment plans. This is why a growing number of cities are looking at “climate mainstreaming” their municipal budgets while others are doing participatory budgeting like the city of Paris.

Homework for the new Parliament / Commission:
– Prepare a new version of the State of the Energy Union, fully reflecting the local potential
– Ensure that Covenant of Mayors signatories directly contribute to EU legislation

To dig further: Manifesto Briefing – Designing bottom-up energy policies

SHARING

“Sharing” in the energy system can mean a lot of different things. First of all, cities have now developed a long-standing habit of sharing the responsibility of long term energy planning with citizens, basically what’s required now of EU member states via the National Energy and Climate Plan process.

A growing number of local authorities are also sharing energy investments with their citizens, a cooperation model which should soon be given policy impetus via the implementation of the new EU legal provisions on community energy. And for citizens that do not have sufficient investment capacities, cities are thinking out of the box about ways to help them benefit indirectly.

Lastly, sharing partnerships between rural and urban areas are also of crucial importance. A growing number of cities are adopting commitments for locally produced renewable energy but the capacity that can be deployed in high-density urban neighbourhoods is often very limited. The city of Vaxjo in Sweden is for example cooperating with the regional county, other municipalities in the region and university to create a bio-based economy supplying energy from local resources while creating new competences and jobs in the area. Cities increasingly rely on such new governance practices to be able to properly harness their “natural capital” and heritage. More and more are looking at creating such short-circuit energy supply chains by building alliances with their farmers and rural hinterlands.

Homework for the new Parliament / Commission:
– Support local food and energy partnerships through the EU Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
– Support best practice exchange on new business models around local energy ownership

To dig further:
Manifesto Briefing – Urban-rural partnerships
Manifesto Briefing – The Covenant as a transition lab to a climate-neutral Europe

SHAKING

It is impressive how cities are increasingly “shaking” the status quo of traditional energy politics. They are for example breaking down the silos between energy vectors, by integrating and optimizing all the local energy flows. But it is also about disrupting the “business as usual” processes of public administrations. This is for example what happened when Pamplona in Spain first launched the idea of a local energy company to move from energy consumer to supplier and tackle local fuel poverty in the process. The first responses from some city departments were not easy to handle as it triggered a sort of “this is not what we do” reaction. Changing the mind-sets of financial and economic teams is also the herculean task of the growing number of cities that are now trying to climate proof their municipal budgets. On the legal, technical and economic fronts, cities venturing in such new territories will need to be equipped with adequate resources and capacities to take on their new roles.

Homework for the new Parliament / Commission:

– Review the EU budget and European Semester process in order to “climate-mainstream” all economic, fiscal and budgetary policies
– Specific EU funding lines must be allocated to building the legal, economic and technical capacities of local authorities to translate the new provisions of the Clean Energy Package on citizen and renewable energy communities into concrete projects

To dig further:
• Manifesto Briefing – Climate budget at EU, national, regional, local levels

• Manifesto Briefing – Divest EIB and reinvest in the transition
• Manifesto Briefing – Increase municipalities’ capacity to implement EU energy legislation

Locally yours,

Alix