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Energetic new Board of Directors makes its voice heard in Brussels!

By Alix Bolle on 9 November 2017

Since April of this year, Energy Cities is governed by a new Board of Directors, made up of elected city representatives from 11 different EU countries. Last October in Brussels, the group of dynamic local leaders showed just how committed they were to making their cities more sustainable places to live and held lively exchanges of views with EU officials on the principles that should guide our future energy system.

One striking observation at the outset of the meeting was the diverse and wide-ranging nature of the actions taken by the board members. Sustainable mobility in Modena (Italy) - a city nonetheless known as a hotspot for the automotive industry- district heating networks converting to renewable energy in Riga (Latvia), public procurement for LED public lighting in Trnava (Slovakia), innovative waste treatment in Milton Keynes (UK), tax incentives for wind farms in Bornova (Turkey), gas exit strategy in Delft (The Netherlands), smart technologies in Heidelberg (Germany), climate adaptation in Cork (Ireland), climate neutrality plans in Paris (France), local mobilisation in Liège (Belgium) and green leaf award in Växjö (Sweden): there was not one topic left untouched.

At a time when the EU institutions are about to completely reform the community legislation on energy (from the market rules to the promotion of renewables, from energy efficiency to the energy performance of buildings and the implementation of the Paris agreement) our 11 city leaders welcomed the opportunity to confront views with Director from the European Commission energy department Mechthild Wörsdörfer and political analyst Sami Andoura, a close advisor to European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.

Two important considerations emerged quite firmly out of the discussions. On the post-Paris governance of the EU energy and climate targets, Energy Cities’ board members called for a genuine partnership to be established between the various government levels. “There has to be a mandate to involve stakeholders in a genuine dialogue process, and we’re talking more than a footnote consultation at the end of a document here”, said Cork Councillor Alan Coleman.

Second, on the European Commission’s shift towards a market-first approach in the promotion of renewable energies, the Deputy Mayors of Paris and Delft both alerted on the threat this posed to extending district heating networks in their cities, with fossil fuels prices creating unfair competition. “There is a clear contradiction between the EU’s renewable and sustainability elements on one side, and the market regulations on the other”, added Milton Keynes’ Council Leader Peter Marland.

The European Parliament and Council are expected to adopt their first position on both the governance and renewables-related legislations by the end of the year. Let’s hope that EU leaders will come to grips with the fact that “to empower Europe, you need to decentralise Europe” in the words of our President and Mayor of Heidelberg Eckart Würzner.

© photos: Nathalie Nizette

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