ManagEnergy is a technical support initiative of the Intelligent Energy - Europe (IEE) programme of the European Commission which aims to assist actors from the public sector and their advisers working on energy efficiency and renewable energy at the local and regional level.

Sustainable energy on the 'periphery'

ManagEnergy spoke with Alexis Chatzimpiros, energy and island adviser at the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions of Europe (CPMR), about the organisation's work and its views on sustainable energy.

For those unfamiliar with CPMR, please describe the organisation's mission and work.

The CPMR has, since 1973, been targeting its action towards ensuring the needs and interests of its member Peripheral and Maritime Regions are taken into account in all policies with a high territorial impact. In particular, the CPMR is striving to ensure a strong EU regional policy targeted at all of Europe’s regions and is also working towards the delivery of an integrated maritime policy designed to contribute towards Europe’s economic growth.

How do peripheral and maritime regions stand to gain from sustainable energy? What unique energy challenges do these regions face, as compared to inland regions?

Peripheral and Maritime Regions, and islands more specifically, are the first to suffer the impact of climate change. In recent years flooding, high carbon-based fuel prices limiting local economic development (often requiring significant subsidies) and the impact of tourism on their energy, water and waste systems are but a few of the challenges facing our member-regions. Islands also suffer from limited diversity of energy sources, leading to poor security of supply. 

Limited or non-existent interconnections reduce the stability of island networks and often limit severely the export potential of renewable energies. This is why they are very actively involved in reducing to a maximum or even eliminating the use of fossil fuels and promoting sustainable energy systems, smart energy solutions (grids – efficiency etc.).

How does CPMR view the role of regional authorities in achieving the EU's energy and climate goals? How do you support regional authorities in these goals?

The CPMR has since its inception viewed the role of regional authorities as pivotal. Energy and climate solutions have to be accepted by the local communities and regions, they have to be decided by the local and regional authorities in a bottom up approach that has produced demonstrable results over the past few decades.

A number of regions have already put into place integrated approaches to energy saving and energy supply, for example via sustainable energy action plans, such as those developed under the Covenant of Mayors and the Pact of Islands initiatives. In recent years the exemplary role of the public sector has been underlined in several EC Directives.

Regions are encouraged to adopt integrated and sustainable energy efficiency plans with clear objectives, to involve citizens in their development and implementation and to adequately inform them about their content and progress in achieving objectives. Nine (9) regions-members of the CPMR participate in the Pact of Islands initiative so far and have delivered sustainable energy action plans with the aim to reduce their CO2 emissions by at least 20% by 2020. Such plans can yield considerable energy savings, especially if they are implemented by energy management systems that allow the public bodies concerned to better manage their energy consumption. Exchange of experience between cities, regions and other public bodies should be encouraged with respect to the more innovative experiences.

The CPMR is directly involving the political leadership of peripheral and maritime regions. Through the activities of its political bureaus, makes significant policy recommendations and actively liaises with the European Institutions for their adoption and implementation

As the founder of ISLENET, CPMR counts many island communities among its members. What specific solutions and sustainable energy technologies are available to islands? And what types of EU policies would best encourage their uptake? 

There are many sustainable energy technologies that are available to islands: from the mature technologies such as wind and sun (that are requiring smart grids and energy storage solution), to the more advanced ones, such as the marine and hydrogen technologies that are under active development in many European islands such as the Orkney European Marine Energy Center and other peripheral regions that have developed and operate testing sea platforms.

EU policies and programmes such as the former Intelligent Energy Europe and Horizon 2020 are well designed to help the uptake of these new technologies. It is important to underline here that the new Horizon 2020 programme should have more provisions for the technology needs of the island communities, as the structure and the size of some of the strands of H2020 are not very “island friendly”.

How do you support island communities in their sustainable energy goals? 

The CPMR’s Island Commission, working together with ISLENET has adopted a two-faceted approach:

  • The Islands Commission deals with policy, makes policy recommendations that have a direct impact on the lives of islanders and fights for their adoption and implementation.

  • ISLENET on the other hand, through a multitude of partnerships with technical institutions, universities, NGOs and other stakeholders deals with specific projects, catering to specific needs of the islands, helping them to identify the best sustainable energy solutions for their climate and geomorphology and supporting them in overcoming multilevel governance barriers, such as the ones addressed in the SMILEGOV project.