MEP Danuta Hübner, Chair of REGIO Committee and a former Regional Policy Commissioner, calls on Member States and regions for 2014-2020 funding to boost rural area sustainability.
Brussels, 5 November 2013 – Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and representatives of more than 40 European regions on Tuesday discussed challenges and opportunities regarding financing energy projects in rural areas, days ahead of an important Parliamentary vote on Cohesion Policy.
“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,” said Prof. Dr. Danuta Hübner, MEP and Chair of the European Parliament’s Regional Development Committee, at an event organised by the Future of Rural Energy in Europe (FREE) initiative on ‘Translating EU priorities into energy opportunities for rural regions in 2014-2020’.
The upcoming parliamentary vote on cohesion funding, if approved, would unlock almost 300 billion euros for new programmes after almost two years of negotiations between the Parliament, Member States and the European Commission.
“After many months of intense negotiations, we are now very close to reaching a final agreement, so that by 2014 the programmes will be up and running,” Hübner said.
She emphasised that energy is an important EU priority and that rural areas need support from Cohesion Policy in order to become more sustainable and more energy efficient.
The FREE discussion Tuesday comes ahead of the informal Cohesion Policy Council meeting on 26 November that will kick-off discussion on the scope and shape of the Partnership Agreements between national capitals and the European Commission. FREE believes that energy in rural areas should be explicitly mentioned as part of the priorities for funding in the texts of Partnership Agreements of all Member States to provide rural areas with sufficient financial support to help them overcome their energy challenges.
“Rural areas need financial support to move away from polluting fuels such as heating oil and coal and to become more energy efficient, while contributing to the EU’s desires to switch to a low carbon economy. That’s why today we launch an online funding tool which can help rural stakeholders in getting information about funding schemes available after 2014,”said Andrew Ford, Founder of the FREE initiative.
FREE’s new online tool also offers the latest information on a range of sustainable energy solutions for households, businesses and agriculture in rural areas. For each solution, research consultancy Ecofys has developed factsheets that contain information regarding main benefits, technical workings, suitability, and related costs, savings and earnings. The list of rural energy solutions is non-exhaustive and the FREE initiative remains open to engage with interested stakeholders who would like to join the initiative.
The FREE initiative gives a voice to all those who believe that rural energy needs are important issues both for those who live in the countryside and for European society as a whole. Back in 2010, FREE was created under the umbrella of SHV Energy, based on its experience in delivering lower-carbon energy to rural areas. Since then, the initiative has grown and meanwhile incorporates many supporting organisations. Contact the FREE Secretariat for more information (email@example.com, tel: +32 2 234 68 94).
Ecofys is a leading consultancy company in renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change.