EPP-CoR members called for the EU to speed up energy independence taking into account energy efficiency as a key step and to avoid energy poverty from becoming a Europe-wide problem. The European Committee of the Regions (CoR) adopted two EPP-led opinions laying the position of cities and regions across Europe on the ongoing revision of the ‘Fit for 55 energy package’ and the implementation of the European Green Deal at the local and regional level.

Energy efficiency is the first step to become energy independent

Presenting his opinion, Rafal Trzaskowski, Mayor of Warsaw (Poland) and CoR Rapporteur on the Energy Efficiency Directive said “For some the need to speedily build our independence from Russian energy sources is an excuse to weaken our climate goals. I believe we should try even harder and reach them sooner than anticipated. Hence I reaffirm my support for the revision of the Energy Efficiency directive and the proposed targets in particular the 3% annual renovation of public sector buildings, and the 1,7% reduction of energy demand by the public sector. As local and regional authorities (LRAs) we should stand behind the energy efficiency first principle as the energy saved is the one that we do not use. He reiterated his call for direct funds to be made available to LRAs and to local and regional energy agencies to be in a better position to implement Green Deal projects. The CoR Rapporteur also called on the European Commission to facilitate public-private building renovation consortia with industries and LRAs.

The Mayor of Warsaw also spoke on the impact of the ongoing war on the cost of living “The number of vulnerable citizens facing energy and mobility poverty has increased dramatically due to the energy crisis caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine.” In this regard, he called for a greater empowerment of the consumers and a greater commitment to eradicate energy poverty, which is affecting increasing number of citizens.

A fair transition that leaves no one behind

Csaba Borboly, President of Harghita County Council (Romania) and rapporteur for the CoR opinion on a socially fair Green Deal said “We all agree that climate change will cost us dearly, unless we act now. The most important tool is to tax energy. Nevertheless, we should provide incentives and exemptions for vulnerable households, as Europe should not allow energy poverty to become an overall phenomenon. The new Emissions Trading System (ETS) impacts regions, especially where populations have lower average income. Therefore, we recommend analyzing territorial patterns at the local level in order to allow exemptions in the affected regions”. Borboly added that energy efficiency requires investment. “We need to act cohesively – making funds available to support households directly, in an efficient way, avoiding unnecessary red tape.” The rapporteur also underlined that the SCF should constitute a part of the structural funds and operate under shared management respecting the principles of partnership and multi-level governance.

Local and regional leaders adopt resolution on REPowerEU

The energy crisis caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine has nothing but exacerbated the need for the EU to turn away from its dependency on Russian oil and gas. In view of the current geopolitical situation and its consequences on energy markets, the CoR adopted a resolution on REPowerEU that is to achieve independence from Russian energy imports by 2030. Current threats to Europe’s energy security are not an alternative to the climate-neutral transition, local leaders stress.

The adopted resolution on REPowerEU welcomes the possibility to intervene on electricity prices to tackle high volatility and mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable and micro- and small enterprises. The CoR suggests decoupling gas and electricity as a possible measure to prevent high gas prices from affecting power prices and calls on the Commission to extend the application of the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) at least until the end of 2023.

Local leaders warn that the EU’s energy sovereignty will not be achieved until the synchronisation of gas, hydrogen and electricity power grids and interconnections are improved and fully completed throughout the EU. State aid rules should be revised as to boost key strategic autonomy investments such as green hydrogen and electric public recharging infrastructure.

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