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EU Commissioner for Energy
Sustainable Energy Europe (SEE) Awards and the ManagEnergy Local Energy Award Ceremony 2013
Opening of EU Sustainable Energy Week 2013/Brussels
24 June 2013
First of all, welcome to each and every one in this wonderful theatre. Thank you for coming!
Let me quote a recent headline1 "90% of investors say … sustainability reports are essential". Not just interesting. Not just important. Essential.
This shows how far sustainability has infiltrated the world of business. It shows that sustainable energy has moved into the forefront of commercial policy. It shows that sustainable energy interests not just a select few. Sustainable energy has come of age.
And I only need to look around the room today to realise that our Sustainable Energy Week has also come of age.
Sustainable energy is no longer seen as a luxury. It is not restricted to minor, niche groups. Sustainable energy is now mainstream. We cannot do without it.
When the Sustainable Energy Weeks started, 8 years ago, finance for sustainable energy was not on the political agenda. In 2007, the first European Strategic Energy Review, which set the 2020 energy and climate targets, did not mention finance at all, apart from passing references to Trans-European networks and international assistance.
This week, I want to put sustainable energy financing at the top of the agenda. We have seen that our energy systems have to adapt to more sustainable energy. In the same way, our financial systems will need to adapt to financing for sustainable energy.
How, and what sort of business models we will need, is something we can discuss as the Week continues.
But whatever happens this week, it will confirm, I am sure, that sustainability is not only good for society. It is good for business, too!
This message is all the more important in today's financial situation. The economic crisis has taken its toll on finance for energy projects. Public funding cuts have removed support for innovation and renewable energy. Cuts in jobs and wages have taken the public's mind off energy and climate challenges.
Politicians can only do so much. Our Energy Strategy for 2020, the Energy Roadmap 2050, our Green Paper on 2030, the completion of the internal energy market, the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, the Infrastructure Regulation and Connecting Europe…. We are not short of political initiatives. But without the finance, we will not get far.
This Sustainable Energy Week is an opportunity to get the finance world on our side. Put simply, investments in sustainable energy need to be and can be profitable. There should be money to be made. Everyone can make sustainable investments. Companies and individuals. Private and public sector. At work, at home and at leisure.
Apart from the business case, financing for sustainable energy also has to face a second hurdle. Changes in energy markets are modifying the way in which energy investments are made. We have opted for a market-based approach as the most efficient solution for our energy markets. This means that governments can no longer be the paymaster of energy companies. We do not want to go back to a situation, as in the past, where the bill for new infrastructure and new investments was handed down to the taxpayer, who wasn't asked. The better solution is to create the right market framework for energy companies to make the necessary investments. Are we already there today? Are there enough incentives for private companies to take on the risks involved and make appropriate returns?
There are serious doubts about that. We need to carefully analyse our rules and framework – be it energy or financial market rules – and, if necessary adapt our approach.
We need systems to bring available sources together. Assurances that money is used in the most effective way possible. Partnership between the public and private sector to overcome obstacles, to deal with new challenges which come with new projects and new ideas.
These are some of the themes we will be looking at this week. For example, we will look at cooperative funding. And we will look closely at new sources of European finance, such as Horizon 2020 for research, development and demonstration of energy technology; or the Structural Funds, with its new emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy. In the next European budget, we will have some 17 billion euros available for sustainable energy until 2020.
Financing sustainable energy brings challenges at every level. For my part, I want to see that we use European funding and European networks as effectively as possible; that we make use of synergies between European programmes; and that we involve national, local or private bodies with best result. At national, company and individual levels, the challenges are different. This Week gives us the chance to bring people together from every level, to understand all these challenges better and seek to overcome obstacles in a productive way.
Because investing in sustainable energy means investing in a better future for Europe.
Let me come now to this evening's particular ceremony – presenting the awards to the winners of the Sustainable Energy Awards competition.
This year's interest has been overwhelming: we have received over 200 fantastic projects. We could only choose six as winners, one for each of the 5 categories - communicating, consuming, learning living and travelling - and a winner for the Manage Energy Award, an award given to a local or regional authority for best practice in energy.
All six winners are examples of sustainable energy excellence. I am sure they will inspire others to achieve similar results.
I am extremely grateful to the Jury which has had the difficult task of selecting the winners. I would like to thank the chairwoman of the Jury, Ms Maria Da Graça Carvalho, member of the European Parliament, and pay tribute to the hard and very serious work of all Jury members.
Unfortunately, I will not be able to stay and witness the presentation of the Awards. So I congratulate the winners with their achievement right now! Your work is truly inspiring and motivating. The success of your projects also shows that sustainable energy open up new economic and job opportunities.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Sustainable energy affects us all. Paying for sustainable energy affects us all. The European Sustainable Energy Week is for everyone.
Sustainable energy is not a choice. It is not a luxury. But also, sustainable energy is not free. But if companies and individuals have access to the finance they need, if investors understand the favourable business case, if public and private sectors work together, we can have a booming sustainable energy industry in Europe which will bring jobs, profits, security and a better quality of life for all.
Let us make the EU Sustainable Energy Week resonate in cities and boardrooms around Europe and beyond. Like today's award winners, let us use this week to inspire people to build a more sustainable future for Europe.
5 June 2013, poll conducted by the European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif) and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)