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EU Sustainable Energy Week #EUSEW 2013 – Part 1

September 12, 2013

It’s been a while I took part to the EU Sustainable Energy Week, it was at the end of June, but I’m sure the few readers of this blog won’t mind this little reminder. I am sure that nobody will read it. it’s too long and the topic is not hot enough, like every skilled blogger would tell me.  However, it’s relevant for my own record, just like most of the things on this blog.

In a speech held on the 26th of June at the European Parliament Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy Johannes Hahn highlighted that the €10 billion dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy in 2007-2013 are going at least to be doubled and even likely to grow up to €23 billion in 2014-2020. “In this respect Regional policy makes a significant contribution to increasing EU competitiveness and ensuring a stable energy supply in Europe. We finance projects promoting the production and distribution of energy from renewable sources and innovative technologies in this area as well as projects that improve energy efficiency and security of supply through smart gas and power distribution, and transmission systems”.

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Sustainable Energy Award Ceremony

In order to understand the reasons behind such a strong financial commitment of territorial cohesion funds towards the energy issues, despite the terrible financial and economic crisis that might, at first sight, call for other priorities, it was worth going to Brussels to the EU Sustainable energy week EUSEW 2013. This is an initiative of the European Commission that first took place in 2006. Today, it is coordinated by the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation, EACI, in close cooperation with DG Energy. EUSEW showcases activities dedicated to energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions aiming to spread best practices, inspire new ideas and build alliances to help meet the EU’s energy and climate goals.

However EUSEW is also an opportunity for Regional authorities, business organisations, chambers of commerce, associations, citizen groups, NGOs, research centres and think tanks to raise the profile of their organisation, town, city or region. It gives the opportunity to become part of a European movement, spread sustainable energy technologies and practices, attract media attention and support. Covenant of Mayors signatories are especially welcome in the EUSEW, during which also the Sustainable Energy Europe Awards and the ManagEnergy Local Energy Action Awards ceremony takes place.

I took part for two days to the EUSEW 2013 with the aim to disseminate the results of the capitalisation workstream “Building energy efficiency in European cities” and to cross check our findings with cutting edge research and the most up-to-date policy trends. Well noted the EUSEW is about all aspects of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, from the ocean to the buildings, from windmills to bicycles, from smart grids to cross border cooperation. However 10 out of 30 conferences on the main programme (the ones taking place in the Charlemagne building and in the Committee of Regions) had their main focus on the built environment, at the scale of the building or at the urban or territorial scale and most of the others touched upon energy efficiency of buildings.

The first conference I attended was the one organised by Energy Cities with the title of “Proposals for the energy transition of cities and towns”. The conference was divided in two sessions featuring a well balanced mix of public and private stakeholders, local authorities representatives and professionals. On the background a policy paper calling the EU institutions to provide the suitable political, legislative and financial framework to local authorities and let them play the central role in implementing environmental targets in the next programming period. Furthermore Energy Cities are calling for more ambitious and binding targets to tackle climate change between 2020 and 2030. This is interesting to be noted, as many member States have the opposite view, saying the EU should stop setting targets which are unlikely to be achieved, and the Commission is thinking about the proposals to be made. Being seven years away from 2020 there are still different views both on the achievability of the 2020 energy targets and on their effectiveness. Nevertheless it is clear that at the EUSEW the large majority was optimistic about the reaching the targets and convinced of the positive role of the EU strategy 2020 in reducing the impact of climate change.

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The two sessions were very well managed and engaging, full of interesting and diverse contributions, however with little debate, due to the fact that, as it was noted by one of the speakers, we were all, more or less like-minded people. As a matter of fact the possibility to debate between different views and options, even though when we share the same targets, is quite important in these kind of conferences. During the second session I was just about to raise my hand for an intervention when I heard Claire Roumet, Secretary General of Cecodhas Housing Europe speaking. She was saying how important it is for Europe to support cities in tackling their own issues in their own way, creating and supporting networks of cities on specific topics to exchange and learn from each other. She was talking about URBACT as one of the most successful European programmes, helping cities to find their way to sustainable urban development. Well, that was a perfect introduction! I took the floor for my short intervention thanking Mrs Roumet and just reminding that URBACT is well known for exchange and learning activities, but this is not all. In fact, in the last years it has developed a complete set of tools to support cities including advice how to produce Local Action Plans with input from a Local Support Groups, the URBACT Summer Universities and training schemes for elected representatives both at European and National level.

Coming back the topic of the conference I asked the representative of the private sector, Adrian Joyce Secretary General of EuroACE, the European alliance for companies for energy efficiency, if the big companies of the building sector are ready and willing to support cities to find integrated solutions for energy retrofitting the existing building stock, combining careful heritage preservation and renewable energy solutions at the building and the district scale. The answer was positive, meaning that all major companies have developed around their core business a set of integrated tools to be able to respond to the needs of deep renovation at urban scale. As a matter of fact in some countries like Denmark, France and Germany private companies are already well integrated in the on-going retrofitting process of the existing building stock. Although it is true that the public sector has to steer and support the retrofitting process, it is clear that, especially in our difficult times, there is no other way to scale-up energy retrofitting than a sound public-private partnership.

To be continued!

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