European Commissioner responsible for Regional
Conference on the new development policy under the 2007-2013 NSRF -
Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy
Honourable Minister Mr. Bersani,
Honourable President Mr. Vendola,
Honourable Mayor Mr Emiliano,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all allow me to thank you Minister Bersani and President Vendola for your kind invitation. It is a real pleasure for me to visit Bari, Puglia and Basilicata for the first time and to participate to this timely debate on sustainable, secure and competitive energy, an essential precondition for a sustainable socio-economic development not only in Puglia but also in southern Italian regions as well as in the EU.
My main message is that the ambition of EU regional policy for the period 2007-13 is to give a significant boost and contribution to the EU goals in renewable energies and energy efficiency. It's absolutely clear for me that this will foster the development of the EU regions.
My presentation has three parts. First, I will share some reflections on how the EU is responding to ensure a sustainable, secure and competitive energy in the overall framework of the climate change challenge. Next, I shall outline the contribution from Regional policy to support the EU response in the energy field. Finally, I will comment on the energy approach in the Italian programmes for 2007-13 and the Cohesion policy support.
1. Sustainable, competitive and secure energy in the global climate change context
• Let me start by saying that for the EU the challenge is how to secure a sustainable energy that limits the impact of human activity on climate change. The point of departure for defining an energy policy must be that it helps combat climate change, promotes jobs and growth, and limits the EU vulnerability to oil and gas imports. The core objective has been established by the European Council in terms of reducing by 2020 the EU greenhouse gases by at least 20% compared to 1990. By this target the EU commits the transformation of its economy into a highly energy efficient and low greenhouse gas emitting one. It involves taking global leadership and spearheading a new industrial revolution.
• This target must also be seen in the context of the global action needed to cope collectively with the greenhouse gas emissions challenge that would require a reduction of 30% in comparison with 1990.
• But even without the climate change challenge, the EU needs to take decisive steps to cope with its exposure to increasing and volatile prices for oil and gas, further develop an EU competitive energy market and promote new technologies and jobs.
• The steps the EU is working on include a number of wide ranging measures such as to raise by 2020 the share of renewable energies to 20% of the energy consumed and the share of biofuels to 10% in the transport sector. These concrete targets are stated in the proposal for a Directive that was adopted yesterday (23 January 2008) by the Commission on and is going to be submitted to the EU Council and Parliament for its adoption.
• This energy initiative has been adopted in the context of a broader package that also includes a Decision proposing a methodology for sharing the effort at Member State level to deliver the EU greenhouse emissions target, and the revision of the Directive on EU Emission Trading System improving its operation and taking it beyond 2012 in order to make a substantial contribution to meeting the 2020 cut in greenhouse emissions
• The Commission is working on a series of initiatives to improve energy efficiency across all EU economic sectors that cover from the minimum product standards and better labelling to the improvement of building codes and more efficient transport systems
• The Commission has also adopted in November 2007 a Communication on a European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET) that aims to turn the challenge of climate change and energy security into a competitive advantage for the EU, fostering a technology driven revolution that results in a new generation of energy efficient equipment, carbon sequestration technologies and new materials that help reduce the cost of wind and photovoltaic energies
• All Commission policies are contributing to meet the climate change and energy challenges. For example, the 7th RTD Framework Programme includes a wide range of actions on energy for Renewable Energy Sources, fuel cells or hydrogen technologies
2. Cohesion policy support to sustainable, competitive and secure energy
• Cohesion Policy has been preparing to step up during the period 2007-13 its already significant contribution to meet the challenge of ensuring more secure and sustainable sources of energy. The October 2006 Decision on the Community Strategic Guidelines on cohesion already proposed - for the preparation of the NSRF and operational programmes - to address Europe's intensive use of traditional energy sources by improving the energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies; the latter, by also promoting alternative technologies.
• We need to bear in mind that these energy alternatives can constitute an opportunity for many EU regions as they can be largely endogenous and offer a real chance for regional and local development, for the creation of "green" jobs and reducing the dependence of the economy of these territories from imported fuel
• In concrete, € 15,2 B of the Cohesion policy funding have been allocated for the period 2007-2013 for investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency. This figure represents, when compared to the period 2000-2006, an allocation five times higher under the Convergence objective and seven times higher under the Regional Competitiveness and Employment objective
• In particular, in the EU 27, the 2007-13 programmes make provision for supporting with € 6,2 B the promotion of clean urban transport, of € 4,8 B for renewable energies and of € 4,2 B for improving the energy efficiency
• Cohesion policy also makes a substantial financial contribution to Member States research and technological development effort, a part of which can support the new industrial revolution on which the EU has embarked to secure a sustainable, competitive and secure energy for the Union
• In addition, Regional policy through its networks such as "ENERGYREGIO" that aims to strengthening energy efficiency by promoting sustainable development in EU regions, "REGENERGY" a network of pioneering communities and regions working on innovative heat energy solutions or "REGIOSUSTAN" that promotes the sustainable utilisation of biomass as a source of energy can contribute to the acceleration of the transformation of local economies promoting the exchange of best practices among EU regions. Furthermore, the Commission has reinforced its support to inter regional networking through the Regions for Economic Change initiative – which identifies sustainable energy as a key priority
3. The Italian specificity
• Renewable Energies, as well as energy efficiency, fit perfectly in the Italian scenario, since they contribute to address some of Italy's weaknesses: high dependency on import and hydrocarbons, and the subsequent greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, let me stress that the Italian productive pattern based on SME can provide the flexibility needed to develop local clusters on energy sector.
• That is the reason why sustainable energy can contribute to boost local economy, to create new qualified employment as well as to make your economic system more resilient, through an increase of local (renewable) energy production and a decrease in traditional energy share.
• I can see we share the vision of energy sector as an important factor of regional development: Italian Regions and Ministries were strongly focused on energy while defining 2007-2013 Programming Period, increasing the allocation for energy more than fivefold in comparison with 2000-2006. The Italian commitment for this field is impressive from a quantitative point of view: Italy has allocated the biggest amount of regional policy contribution for sustainable energy: 1.85 Billion € of ERDF at national level, most of which (1.45 Billion) will contribute to the development of the regions falling under the Convergence objective.
• This allocation of resources will be leveraged by the national contribution and a large amounts of investors’ capital allocated to the productive projects that will be financed; these sources can activate around 10 Billions € of investments, most of which in “Convergence” Regions!
• Accordingly, we must be ambitious and expect high results and impact: This critical mass of resources can bring on innovation and develop the energy sector, and have an important impact on Renewable Energy production.
• Let me also remind that more renewable energy and more efficiency in energy use are the fundamental tools to address the global change – accordingly, the Commission welcome the commitment toward greenhouse gas reduction of Italian Operational Programmes. Setting specific quantified target on greenhouse emissions is a best practice.
• There is another feature of the Italian planning on Energy for 2007-2013 that is worth mentioning: the specific multiregional operational programme on sustainable energy, with a total allocation of 1.6 Billion € ; the programme will be implemented by a multilevel governance system involving the 4 regions (Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria), as well as the Ministries for the Economic Development and for the Environment. It represents an important opportunity for the development of new actions in Italy’s southern Regions and for their dissemination in Regional programmes, but it requires consensus to be reached within regions and central administrations involved. The Commission will play its role in partnership with the Italian authorities to make it deliver innovative sustainable energy techniques.
• Just two remarks on factors to consider while implementing this ambitious framework:
• Administrative burden can significantly reduce the diffusion of renewable energy sources. Italian initiatives like “conto energia” and the innovative electricity counter are steps in the right direction. Consequently, I encourage you to keep on reducing the red tape – this a key condition to ensure a sectoral boom.
• The “European Spatial Planning Observation Network” (ESPON), an important monitoring and study tool for the Regional Policy, highlight, in its report, that solar energy has still a largely unexploited potential, notably in southern Italian regions. Now you have the chance to benefit largely from this source. I’m confident you won’t miss it.
• ESPON will monitor closely the energy issue during the 2007-2013 programming period, focusing, inter alia, on the effects of rising energy prices on regional competitiveness, as well as climate change effects on regions.
Thank you for your attention
 This is a key objective of some
Operational Programmes – Trento has an ad hoc priority to set up a
district on sustainable energy.