Overcoming energy poverty in rural areas and islands
Poor access to energy is still an issue for many European citizens and it will increase in the coming years. “Energy poverty affecting millions of households across Europe is a fact and a shame for the EU. Around 125 million people at risk of energy poverty, 54 million Europeans cannot afford to heat their homes in winter and other 50 million are either facing energy debts or living in deteriorated dwellings.” says Prof. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, Ambassador of COMPOSE (Nobel Prize 2017, Slovenian climatologist and researcher at Ljubljana University)
Bearing this alarming fact in mind, the Interreg MED project COMPOSE (Rural Communities Engaged with Positive Energy) worked on increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the local energy strategies and mix in Mediterranean rural areas and islands. Indeed, taking into account climate change effects, the non-renewable resources will decrease dramatically in the years to come. The goal of COMPOSE was to update the current procedures and approaches to Renewable Energy Sources (RES) and create a model and tool that could be replicated in the whole Mediterranean area.
The COMPOSE model supports local planners and policy makers towards low carbon communities using the local potential and bringing stakeholders together to achieve energy efficiency.
15 pilot actions have been carried out by the project partners to provide concrete examples of the potential for energy savings and local development offered by energy efficiency and renewable energy. These actions were conducted by a wide range of project partners: municipalities, NGOs, universities, research centres coming from 11 participating countries: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain.
The 15 sustainable energy pilots have applied the COMPOSE approach which takes into account not only technical, but also socio-economic and environmental aspects, taking advantage of the local opportunities and creating sustainable energy supply chains. As a result, the share of RES in local energy mix will increase by 12% in rural areas and by 19% in islands engaged in the project.
To motivate policy-makers involved to increase the share of RES and energy efficiency measures towards
the achievement of the Paris Agreement goals, COMPOSE created a Memorandum of Understanding on energy transition. Last year, more than 250 entities at the policy-decision making and local and regional planning levels, from 11 countries, had already signed the MoU to prove their engagement towards renewable energies.
Finally, the project created the Sustainable Energy Planning Toolbox (COMPOSE toolbox): an open access web tool, which allows any type of stakeholders, from policy makers to citizens to better understand the steps towards a sustainable development of local RES and energy efficiency.
The tool offers guidance on EU energy policies and supporting instruments, real sustainable energy case studies, resources to support decision-making, etc., without requiring advanced technical knowledge. For instance, a municipality could use the toolbox to find inspiration for more efficient implementation of local energy plans. They would be guided through the necessary steps from choosing a problem to identifying stakeholders in the community, setting up a local action group and finally implementing and monitoring the project.
Throughout the duration of the project, the COMPOSE partners organised several training workshops and capacity building events allowing many decision makers and energy stakeholders to learn how to adapt their business or development planning model to integrate more energy efficiency and how to seize investment opportunities in RES. As Prof. Lučka Kajfež Bogataj says “small actions can make a big difference”, that’s why public awareness is more than necessary to profoundly change behaviours in our society.