Energy systems that work for everyone
3 min read

Energy systems that work for everyone

Energy systems in Europe are shifting quickly. The energetic impacts of global events like the COVID-19 pandemic and Russian war in Ukraine have made absolutely clear the need for rapid and just energy transition. While European- and national-level interventions are undoubtedly needed, the impacts of energy crises – and efforts to accelerate energy transition – largely land on households and communities.

What do local players need to ensure that energy transition is quick, successful, and impactful enough to prevent catastrophe?

“To achieve Europe’s renewable energy targets and meet its ambitious climate goals, all while lessening the ongoing consequences of the energy crisis on people and businesses, we must breathe new life into our energy systems,” explains Carsten Rothballer, Coordinator – Sustainable Resources, Climate and Resilience at ICLEI Europe. “This means adopting a holistic approach that will address the multifaceted challenges of creating a sustainable energy transition, including energy governance, ownership, poverty, optimisation and innovation.”

Tools to navigate the data landscape

Energy systems are complex, which means that any local authority that wants to ensure that their policies are evidence-based must rely on multiple sources of data, and methods of data analysis. Local authorities are not necessarily equipped to take all of this on, and therefore need tools to make it easier to navigate this landscape.

As Marcin Grądzki, Head of Climate Policy Unit, at ICLEI Member Warsaw (Poland) explains: “Since resources allocated to climate change in cities are sometimes very limited, any help or assistance in creating and analysing data is not only very welcome, but also necessary.”

A selection of innovative solutions and tools that cities are currently testing was presented earlier this month at the European Sustainable Energy Week 2023. This included, for example, the Google Environmental Insights Explorer, which provides cities with transportation and buildings emissions, rooftop solar potential, and tree canopy data, and the MICATool, which enables holistic analyses of Multiple Impacts of Energy Efficiency at the European, national and local levels.

Equity in the energy transition

For households and communities, the most important factor in energy transition is equity. Energy systems need to work for everyone. By keeping this in mind, cities have the opportunity to reduce (or eliminate) energy poverty, and create safe and secure jobs.

Ensuring that energy transition is equitable requires meaningful local engagement, paired with innovative energy poverty reduction schemes. Engagement methods are currently being tested in cities through several projects from the CAMPAIGNers app being tested in ICLEI Members Lahti, Izmir, Linz and Grenoble, which is challenging individuals to reduce their CO2 impact; to DECIDE’s new collective approach to energy management; and to the innovative and proven energy poverty reduction schemes rolled out following the POWERPOOR project.

Ultimately, we also know that cities across Europe will not all bear equal burden of the energy transition. For those in coal and carbon-intensive regions, energy transition – if not done right – could result in depopulation and socio-economic precarity. Ensuring that these regions receive support, can provide input into EU policy development, and can learn from one another is being partly addressed through the Initiative in the Western Balkans and Ukraine and the European Initiative for Coal Regions in Transition, whose Annual Political Dialogue recently took place in Karlovy Vary (Czechia).

During the dialogue, Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, explained: “It is great to see the continued commitment to phasing out coal in a fair and timely manner, and how regions and stakeholders, despite all their differences and particularities, can truly exchange and learn from each other.”

Speeding up the process

There is, however, still much work to be done in righting the energy systems that we have in place today, and achieving the EU’s commitment, enshrined in the European Green Deal and the European Climate Law, to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

In view of the significant economic and societal transformations required to put the EU firmly on a path towards climate neutrality by 2050, the Commission has started a process to establish 2040 climate targets. ICLEI Europe responded to recent public consultation on these targets, with comments that are in line with the official recommendation of the European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change. These include keeping the EU’s cumulative greenhouse gas emissions below 11-14 Gt CO2 emissions between 2030 and 2050, and reducing EU greenhouse gas emissions by 90-95% by 2040, relative to 1990 emission levels.

The world is approaching a number of tipping points – environmental, economic, political and social. But, we are not yet at the point of no return. Cities have a big role to play in changing our course, and in building energy systems that work for everyone.Icl

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