The problem at hand
European countries are of various types. In Scandinavian and federal countries, municipalities are responsible for their territories’ energy supply and set up local energy utilities to carry out this mission. This contributes to developing a sense of responsibility amongst local authorities, whilst providing them with a source of income.
In other Western, Eastern and Southern European countries, local authorities do not have such power and responsibility. It is a State monopoly, which has sometimes evolved into a private monopoly. Some cities own their energy grids and are allowed to build heating networks, even with using combined heat and power - CHP. However, large energy companies always have the upper hand and get all the added value. These companies are usually not favourable to heating networks, which are local networks by nature.
Innovation, local resource mobilisation and CHP development are clearly ahead in countries where cities have more power in this area.
Take responsibility for the territory’s energy supply. This is a decision which comes under national laws.
Experience shows that entrusting a local administration with power and responsibility always leads to better service. In the field of energy, it is a strong leverage for transition as it increases population acceptance of the infrastructures. It fosters creativity and innovation and stimulates local activities, thus creating economic added value that remains in the territory.
Conditions for success
In countries where municipalities have this power and responsibility:
- Making full use of the potential offered in connection with energy efficiency and renewable energy objectives.
In countries where this is not the case:
- Claiming such power and responsibility by referring to the experience of other countries as an example.
- Making good use of responsibility “niches” in existing legislation.