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Policy brief: Travel to a sparkling energy democracy

By Claire Roumet on 7 March 2018






by Claire Roumet, Executive Director of Energy Cities

On 21st February 2018, the European Parliament adopted its position on the last text of the “Clean Energy for All” legislative package regarding the rules governing the internal electricity market in Europe. Although the debates essentially focused on whether to allow coal-fired power stations to continue to produce electricity under the new rules or not (the Parliament clearly said no), other issues are also raised by this directive.

The MEP members of the ITRE committee in charge of energy chose to maintain priority dispatch for renewable energy and to support local energy operators by keeping the European Commission’s proposal to have a framework-definition of local players. The vote on this directive is therefore in line with the votes on the other texts of the Package, thus opening the door to energy decentralisation led by a multitude of players.

Although everybody agrees that changing the energy system will require mobilising all the players, this remains the most difficult aspect to negotiate with the Member States, as the Vice-Minister for Energy for the Bulgarian Presidency confirmed to us during his meeting with the Political Board of the EU Covenant of Mayors and our President Eckart Würzner.

Some States, however, have extensive experience in engaging in a constructive dialogue with all the major sectors and are mobilising society as a whole around ambitious climate objectives. In the Netherlands, Stephan Brandligt from the City of Delft, Vice-President of Energy Cities and President of the Dutch association of the “Cities for the climate” network is representing local authorities at one of the climate negotiation roundtables that are currently taking place in his country. He explained to me how it works… and it feels like a dream.

The Dutch story in a nutshell:

Last October, the new governmental coalition composed of 4 political parties agreed on a programme aimed at increasing the country’s climate commitments. It is a genuine change of trajectory that shows clear determination to move faster and take the Paris Agreement seriously: 49% fewer emissions by 2030.

Once the government was formed, four ministries were involved in organising new negotiations with all stakeholders to obtain a new “Climate agreement” that would spread the effort between all sectors and define each one’s responsibility. The agreement will be the outcome of 6 roundtables (themselves divided into sub-roundtables if necessary): Building, Mobility, Agriculture, Electricity, Industry and Climate (measurement of the effort and trajectories). The Ministry responsible for organising a roundtable is tasked with ensuring that the panel includes a representative of the local authorities, of the regions, of industry, etc. The panel has three months to reach an agreement. This agreement will be enforceable and the Dutch Parliament may legislate if need be, but only to make it operational, not to revise its proposals.

A more inclusive process would be difficult to come by, as the idea is not to organise consultations but to co-decide and make all sectors/players co-responsible! I used to believe that the debate we had in France about the multiannual energy programme, with the resources involved and the method used for supporting a consultation of the stakeholders was very positive. But it does not include co-decision-making.

This is a first step towards mobilising all stakeholders and moving beyond vested interests, but I wish I could take all the Energy Ministers to the Hague for a true immersion in a living energy democracy!

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