The energy transition can benefit Europe's regional economies

The energy transition can benefit Europe's regional economies. The transition to decentralised, renewable and digitalised forms of energy supply would have economic benefits for the regions of the European Union, in addition to environmental benefits. In a report by Lutz Ribbe, the EESC says that there are at least four reasons why smart energy production can help regional economies and it asks the European Commission to systematically link future regional and social cohesion policy to the Energy Union initiative.

Although public and political debate at European level tends to focus on the environmental benefits of, or the risks associated with, the decentralised transition, the Committee makes a different point and says that the development of renewable energy could bring about economic benefits for EU regions. The energy transition represents a great opportunity for local economies, especially for structurally weak and rural European regions. The EESC opinion, adopted at the plenary session on 11 July 2018, stresses that the carbon-free production of energy could benefit regions by:

  • reducing the need for fuel imports;
  • generating economic value within the region concerned, above all if ownership remains local;
  • creating sustainable and quality jobs through the installation, operation, and maintenance of renewable energy production;
  • and, lastly,
  • increasing regional tax revenues.

In a debate on the energy transition at the EESC's July plenary session, Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Energy Union, stressed how important it was to link the EU's energy initiatives to regional policy and development and to strengthen cooperation between EU bodies and civil society.

"It is at the local level that plans and political commitments are turned into concrete projects. The Energy Union cannot be built here in Brussels, but in our cities and in our villages. It has to be a collective effort, where we come up with creative solutions," said Mr Šefčovič.

Mr Šefčovič reaffirmed the Commission's commitment to future action aimed at removing the current barriers preventing people from active and full participation as "prosumers" in the energy transition, as well as building trust among green energy investors.

EESC President Luca Jahier concluded by emphasising the vision of the EESC and its role in ensuring that everybody's voice was heard: "The EESC tries to make sure that by bringing together the expertise of organised civil society from across Europe, no one is left behind in the modernisation of Europe's economy, whether in terms of environment, jobs and opportunities to create economic value, or as a consumer". (mp)