On 14 July 2021 the European Commission adopted the 'fit for 55' package, which adapts existing climate and energy legislation to meet the new EU objective of a minimum 55% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. The 'fit for 55' package is part of the European Green Deal, which aims to put the EU firmly on the path towards climate neutrality by 2050.
Rural areas are crucial to foster the energy transition. They provide the necessary resources for such a transition and serve as sites for the generation of renewable energy. But rural communities have different energy needs and have a reduced and more costly choice than their urban equivalents. The European Climate Pact supports skills for the energy transition in the context of ‘green skills’ which, together with ‘green areas’, ‘green mobility’ and ‘green buildings’ constitutes one of its four priority areas where immediate benefits from civic engagement can be achieved.
The EU Common Agricultural Policy and the Cohesion Policy provide numerous options to finance energy transition in rural areas. The CAP Strategic Plans (CPS) offer member states a menu of interventions to support action such as cooperation (including LEADER), knowledge and information, young farmers and rural businesses, and investments (see more information in the ENRD thematic briefing on Smart Villages and Renewable Energy Communities). Compliance with the new Renewable Energy Directive and targets is an enabling condition for Cohesion Policy, and support to renewable energy projects can also be programmed under several Policy Objectives.
In addition, the Rural Energy Community Advisory Hub launched in June 2022 focuses on assisting citizens, rural actors and local authorities in setting up a Citizen Energy Community or Renewable Energy Community in rural areas through technical and administrative advice and encouraging their development. Its key activities include (i) identification of best practices concerning support frameworks for rural energy community projects, with close involvement of local authorities, (ii) providing technical assistance to selected rural energy communities, (iii) providing networking opportunities to local stakeholders.
In that context, the Rural Pact Support Office organised a webinar dedicated to the energy transition for rural stakeholders. The event involved cooperation with the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – an initiative that brings together local and regional authorities voluntarily committing to develop and implement a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) containing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The Good Practice webinar provided space for local actors to learn from peers about grass-root initiatives around the energy transition which can be implemented at local level.
- Enabling exchanges and learning from local experiences and initiatives that boost energy transition in rural areas;
- Building the capacity of participants to promote energy transition through anticipating, planning and delivering effective high-quality projects responding to the rural needs;
- Learning from implementing SECAPs in rural areas and identifying the needs for support;
- Encouraging and mobilising Rural Pact community members to make a commitment to the Pact and/or to undertake actions linked with energy transition in their specific context.
The audience consisted of project implementers and developers of energy transition initiatives in rural areas targeting various stakeholder groups and potential project holders including local, regional and national private and public actors.