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FREE: translating EU priorities into energy opportunities for Rural Regions in 2014 – 2020

The FREE (Future of Rural Energy in Europe) initiative organized a breakfast briefing with Prof. Danuta Hübner, MEP, Chair of the Committee on Regional Development and former European Commissioner for Regional Policy, on 5th November 2013 at the European Parliament in Brussels. It was the occasion to discuss about energy funding opportunities in the new programming period 2014-2020.

From European opportunities to concrete energy funding in rural areas

According to Danuta Hübner, MEP, the new 2014-2020 programming period gives a great opportunity to better exploit synergies between structural funds and all the other policies: all funds are going in the same direction to fulfil the 2020 Strategy. In the next programming period, there will be a strong focus on sustainable energy, especially in EARDF, ERDF, the Cohesion Fund or ESF to improve skills linked to energy. But if the general framework gives a lot of opportunities, Member States have now to concretise them into the Operational Programmes of their regions. She thus explained that “Governments and regions will play a substantial role in distribution of funds after 2014, and they will have to do the heavy-lifting in order to ensure rural energy projects receive the financial help they need”.

A new tool to help to find EU funding for energy in rural areas:

Andrew Ford, founder of the FREE initiative, underlined the importance of energy in rural areas. Almost half of the European population is living in rural areas and due to long distance and sparsely population, the carbon accounting per habitant is much higher in rural areas than in urban areas. So to develop cheaper sustainable energy solutions in rural areas, it is really important to use and implement innovative solutions and adapt the techniques already available. To ease the process, FREE has introduced a new funding tool on their website. This tool helps to better understand the key points (objectives, activities, type of financial scheme and percentage of EU contribution) of several EU funding that could finance projects on energy in rural areas.

Interregional cooperation in INTERREG will continue to fund energy projects

During 2007-2013, INTERREG IV C has funded 12 projects tackling Energy efficiency, such as LoCaRe, Serpente or IMEA projects and 7 projects tackling Renewable energy, such as Rets, RENREN, 4Power projects.

Nicolas Singer, from INTERREG IVC JTS, explained that the future INTERREG Europe programme will have two thematic objectives dedicated to “the shift towards a Low Carbon Economy” and “Protecting the Environment and promoting resources efficiency”. Thus, INTERREG programme will remain an interesting funding for energy projects in rural areas.

An adequate solution for each case:

Several solutions can be used to implement sustainable energy in mountain and rural areas. The FREE initiative, in partnership with ECORYS, evaluated and assessed the different solutions: biogas, biomass, biofuels, heat-pumps, photovoltaic power, solar thermal water heating…. For each solution, a practical factsheet is explaining its functioning, its main benefits and its efficiency.

To discover the detailed solutions, please click here

Danuta Hübner insisted on the importance not only to share good practices of yesterday, but also to share good practices of tomorrow, which have to be largely disseminated: large pilot demonstration projects could be implemented in rural areas in the future.

8 November 2013

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