Pan European Networks - Government - page 211

sustainable energy we ensure that regions who want to follow this path
have the means to do so.
What role can sustainable energy projects play in
regional growth?
Sustainable energy investments play a strategic role for the EU’s sustainable
economic and social development. Of course, they are a key part of our
ambitious sustainable development strategy. But their impact goes far
beyond that. Investments to increase energy efficiency in buildings in many
regions and cities demonstrate this. They spur innovation, they give a boost
to the small business sector and thereby promote job creation and through
decreased energy consumption they can reduce the energy bill, which is
a heavy burden in particular for low income households. Sustainable energy
investments are therefore needed more than ever in times of economic
crisis. One of the other elements of our reformed regional policy is the
demand that, before they receive the funds, countries will have to come
up with research and innovation strategies for smart specialisation. So
regions will also be able to invest in the needed innovations as regards
sustainable energy. This will prepare the ground for the jobs and economic
activity of tomorrow while maintaining the EU and its businesses among
the world leaders in this sector.
How else is finance for sustainable
energy projects provided?
In addition to the significant planned EU
investments over the next seven years, we also
expect this to trigger a maximum of private
investment. We envisage a much wider use
of financial instruments. This should contribute
to the emergence of well-functioning markets
in these areas. In the area of sustainable
energy investments, it is also important that
member states and regions identify and exploit
complementarities between this funding and
other EU instruments, in particular Horizon
2020 and the Connecting Europe Facility, at
national and regional level, both in the phase of
planning and during implementation.
In what ways does the Commission
assist regions who are looking to
develop sustainable energy projects?
One of the aims of our investments under
regional policy is to further help regions and
cities to develop their own local opportunities for
jobs and growth linked to the green economy.
The concentration of efforts towards a low-
carbon economy is directed at all sectors: a real
focus on renewables and energy efficiency as
well as smart grids at the distribution level,
including research, technological development
and innovation in these areas.
Decision makers in Europe’s cities and regions
have a key role in ensuring that public investment
is made in such a way as to contribute to
meeting environmental, economic and social
challenges. In particular, the regions are essential
in order to achieve the ambitious goals in the
energy sector. Regions and municipalities are
close to energy actors, suppliers and consumers,
and so are well placed to translate policy
decisions into practice, and to encourage
investment in new technologies. Regions and
cities can work to find local tailored solutions. In
fact, regions can often manage trade-offs with
local communities better than the national level.
This is why local and regional authorities are key
players for the promotion of sustainable energy,
in particular renewables, energy efficiency and
smart distribution grids. This August we expect
to have the first drafts of the new ‘Partnership
Agreements’ from the 28 EU member states in
which they spell out their strategy for spending
the EU structural funds. By insisting that a
significant proportion is spent on supporting
Pan European Networks: Government
Johannes Hahn
European Commissioner for Regional Policy
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