Introduction and methodology

Renewable energy sources (RES) can provide solutions to all of the energy challenges that we face as a society, meeting our needs in electricity, heating and cooling and, increasingly, in transportation. Renewable technologies require support to become competitive, but as RES is decentralised, regional investment can bring long-term economic advantages and guarantee security of energy supply. It is for this reason that the INTERREG IVC programme has supported the regional development of RES systems.

INTERREG IVC is a European Union programme that fosters interregional cooperation to improve the effectiveness of regional development policies and contribute to the economic modernisation and competitiveness of Europe. INTERREG IVC forms part of the European Territorial Cooperation objective of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It has two priority areas: ‘innovation and the knowledge economy’, and, ‘environment and risk prevention’.

This thematic programme capitalisation exercise focuses on collecting, analysing and disseminating the knowledge gained from seven projects under the ‘energy and sustainable transport’ subtheme of the ‘environment and risk prevention’ priority. Capitalisation makes links between project results and provides an analysis of collective experience and practices. The report is aimed at policymakers, programme bodies, regional authorities and journalists, who should use this collected knowledge to assist in designing future policy.

Table 1 gives a brief statistical overview of the seven projects. More information on each project can be found in the chapter on project-level analysis.

Table 1 – INTERREG IVC projects in the field of Renewable Energy
ProjectStart dateEnd dateERDF funding (€)Total eligible cost (€)PartnersCountry of lead partner
Regions4 GreenGrowth1/1/201231/12/20141707203220060714NL

Information for this capitalisation report has been collected from the projects through desk research, interviews (face-to-face and telephone) and attendance at project events. The authors also held a thematic workshop in Brussels, attended by representatives from all the projects.

The report proceeds as follows: in the next section, the analytical tool developed by the authors for this capitalisation is presented. The report then provides an overview of the state-of-the art in Renewable Energy technologies and also outlines current support policy frameworks at the European, national and regional levels. This is followed by a two-level analysis; one focusing individually on each of the seven projects under the renewable energy subtheme (allowing for tailored analysis and recommendations) and a second on the projects taken together to allow for the identification of broader trends and themes. The final section provides policy recommendations and conclusions.

Analytical tool

As outlined above, the purpose of this Thematic Capitalisation is to collect, analyse and disseminate the knowledge gained by INTERREG IVC renewable energy projects, with a focus on good practices that encourage the development and uptake of renewable energy technologies.

For the purposes of this study, a ‘good practice’ has been defined as a policy initiative (methodology, instrument, programme, or pilot/demonstration project, etc.) in the thematic area of renewable energy that has proven successful and that has the potential to be transferred to a different geographic area.  A ‘Renewable Energy Technology’ has been defined as a technical solution using energy resources that are naturally generated over a short timescale (see also Chapter 2, below, for more detail).

Studies, policy reports and statistics on the development of renewable energy sources (RES) and related policies are commonly available at the European and global level. For the regional level, however, there is no systematic collection and analysis of such information even though an increasing number of regional case studies and best practices - mainly stemming from European projects - can be found.

A first attempt to shed some light on regional RES policy was launched by EurObserv’ER.3 In their 2011 report, EurObserv’ER introduced a regional analysis of RES support policies, investigating seven regions that had demonstrated best practice in increasing the use of renewables (The State of Renewable Energies in Europe 2011, Lyon, 2012). The aim was to identify the motivation for regional policy initiatives, the prevalence and effectiveness of the tools used, and the underlying requirements for RES adoption. As a result, they observed that there was a ‘regional policy value chain’ in which regions become more mature over time, allowing for the design of more advanced policy tools. This chain was expressed as phases showing policy tools found in beginner regions (e.g. less than ten years’ RES experience) and tools used in advanced regions (e.g. more than thirty years). As regions develop through these phases, renewables go from being subsidised and heavily supported by regional authorities to being market-driven, competitive technologies.

Developing an analytical framework for thematic capitalisation in renewable energy

Based on these observations and the information gathered during the capitalisation exercise, ‘Greenovate! Europe’ developed and adapted the policy value chain for use as the analytical framework for the evaluation of the 212 good practices put forward by the seven renewable energy projects of INTERREG IVC. The analytical framework is presented in Table 2 (below), outlining ‘Regional RES policy initiatives in a continuous development cycle’. The ‘Development Cycle’ contains four stages, starting with ‘Commitment and Planning’ before reaching the stages of ‘Emerging Markets’, ‘Mature Markets’ and finally ‘Saturated Markets’ with a near to 100% RES deployment rate.  It is estimated that a region needs approximately 10 years to run through each of these development stages.

For each development stage, a set of relevant RES policy initiatives has been listed as a ‘tool box’ for regional policymakers that aspire to become renewables regions. 

The ‘Development Cycle’ applies to one type of Renewable Energy Technology at a time. However, the stages of the Development Cycle are not exclusive, meaning regions can have policies in place from several stages of development cycles in parallel. For example, a region could have a saturated wind market, a mature market for geo-thermal energy and also be aiming to initiate bio-energy introducing policies found in the first stage of ‘Commitment and Planning’.

When a region first attempts RES development, it should focus on the type that has greatest growth potential. Ambitious regions can attempt to develop another technology in parallel, but each RES must be included in general policy tools, or have individual dedicated tools. For example, a region may adopt an RES Action Plan outlining a roadmap for several RES types, whilst others may adopt separate action plans for biomass and wind energy.

Applying the framework in the report

The establishment of the ‘Regional RES policy initiatives in a continuous development cycle’ framework is a first, very useful result of the Thematic Capitalisation exercise. It not only provides an analytical framework to analyse good practices but is also a result in itself, providing a relatively complete ‘shopping list’ for policymakers who would like to advance in renewable energy deployment. Based on their position in the Development Cycle, they can choose the best policy initiatives to be used at their specific stage of development. Moreover, it allows regional policymakers to obtain a fast overview and better understanding of policy initiatives that regions can use on their way to 100% renewable energy use.

Throughout the report, the ‘Development Cycle’ is used in a variety of ways:

  1. To establish the key development stages on the way from a 0% to a 100% renewables region;
  2. To specify relevant policy initiatives for each development stage;
  3. To classify and analyse the 212 good practices identified by the INTERREG IVC RES projects according to:
    • Development stage;
    • Policy initiatives.

This allowed the authors to identify that most participating regions were developing policy initiatives in the Emerging Market stage (155 practices) but that fewer policy initiatives were developed for the Commitment and Planning (26) Mature Market (25) or Saturated Market (6) stages. This information not only allowed for suitable recommendations to be made for each project but also allowed for detailed thematic conclusions to be drawn in the final chapter.

Table 2- Regional RES policy initiatives in a continuous development cycle (5)

Commitment and Planning

First time focus on one RES with highest growth potential

  • Analysis of regional market and SWOT follow-up;
  • Organisation of debates with regional stakeholders;
  • Development of regional RES strategy and policy;
  • Setting of clear quantitative targets (if possible branding as ‘xx% RES region’);
  • Peer reviews and study visits;
  • Ongoing communication and cooperation with regional stakeholders;
  • Public information campaign.

Emerging Markets

  • Awareness raising through ongoing information campaigns and educational programmes;
  • Demo investments in proven RES solutions also through green public procurement;
  • Capacity building through training programmes, i.e. for farmers and installers, quality certification and support to leading players;
  • Public acceptance and local ownership, i.e. through co-operative schemes;
  • Technology networking and cluster development;
  • Institutional support for investors (e.g. agency, business accelerators);
  • Regional financing instruments (e.g. subsidies, innovation vouchers, loans, bank guarantees, investment funds, etc.);
  • Facilitation of permitting processes and spatial planning.

Mature Markets

  • Continued development of RES targets and strategy, so as to ensure long-term goals
  • Communication to reinforce positive image and gain public acceptance;
  • Strong commitment to R&D;
  • Close cooperation in a dedicated triple helix cluster;
  • University programmes (technical, socio-economic, project management…);
  • Support to innovation and start-ups;
  • Simplification of investment procedures and availability of seed and risk capital;
  • Regional business leadership ambition;
  • Community ownership of RES enabling infrastructure, i.e. grids, district heating and storage capacity.

Saturated Markets

  • Well-developed infrastructure for transport and logistics;
  • Export initiatives and incentive schemes, i.e. encouragement of internationalisation strategies and business plans;
  • EU/Global technology leadership ambition;
  • Demo investments in innovative RES solutions also through pre-commercial procurement;
  • Dedicated international fairs and events;
  • Involvement of world leading companies;
  • EU leading R&D centres;
  • Cluster of international scope.


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