Executive Summary

Overview of topicPublicationReport

Renewable Energy overview

Renewable Energy publicationRenewable Energy report

Report presented by Katharina Krell and Astrid Severin

Europe has been paving the way for an increased use of renewables in the energy mix through high-level political decisions and ambitious targets. National governments have been implementing incentive schemes and policy measures such as feed-in tariffs for renewables, which have become the most copied policy schemes for countries worldwide.  However, to be successful, the necessary energy revolution has to be enacted at regional and local level. As one project co-ordinator put it, “Without regional involvement, the EU 20/20/20 targets will fail. Results are essentially developed at a local level, where people live.”(Thomas Engelke, RENREN Co-ordinator)

First and foremost, renewables are an opportunity for value creation at regional and local levels. It is here that energy sources such as thermal, photochemical, photoelectric and photosynthetic energy, wind, hydropower and energy from natural movements (i.e. geothermal and tidal energy) are available, directly or indirectly, from the sun. It is thus at regional and local levels that jobs and growth can be created through harvesting, transforming, transporting and storing renewables, provided that the right political framework conditions have been created.

Several European regions and municipalities have been frontrunners in renewable energy development and have often set themselves ambitious targets. Yet, information about renewable energy regions is only collected sporadically (for example, through case studies), and coherent regional statistics are not available. The intensive exchange in INTERREG IVC projects offers access to regional experience and the opportunity for spreading and taking-up policy instruments in a large number of European regions.

The aim of the present thematic capitalisation study on renewable energy was to undertake a programme level analysis of the thematic knowledge gained from seven INTERREG IVC projects collaborating in the renewable energy sector. Of these seven projects, three projects had a strong technology focus (geo-thermal, biomass and offshore-wind) and four projects took a more general approach encompassing all renewable energy sources (RES). A total of 69 regions participated in these projects, each recognising the large potential of renewables for regional development in this area.

As a basis for analysis, a RES policy grid has been developed. (Based on EurObserv’ER 2011 regional case studies) It features policy practices for four levels of market maturity:

  • Commitment and Planning (i.e. regional SWOT analysis, stakeholder involvement, developing action plans, etc.)
  • Emerging Markets (i.e. initial demonstration projects, communication campaigns, regional financing instruments, encouragement of R&D co-operation, etc.)
  • Mature markets (i.e. strong commitment to R&D, dedicated training at university level, support to business start-ups, etc.)
  • Saturated markets (i.e. export orientation, business leadership, world-class R&D, etc.).

This is a continuous cycle where, depending on the stage of renewables development, different policy tools are more appropriate than others. A new cycle can be started by a region to review targets, to start developing a new renewable energy source, or to start completely from scratch with the introduction of renewables. Completing a cycle by reaching the stage of a saturated regional market takes around 30 years.

Using the RES policy analysis grid, the 212 policy practices collected by the projects (at the time of writing) have been analysed and recorded in a database. In addition, the present report provides many examples of best practices for all four market maturity stages.

The study has shown that the projects are beneficial for both experienced renewable energy regions that are seeking inspiration for new and efficient policy schemes and learning regions that can get a head start by adapting policy schemes and approaches that have already been tried and tested. The majority of practices concern the ‘Commitment & Planning’ (12%) and ‘Emerging Markets’ (73%) stages, which appears to be the right concentration since most regions are at these development stages. These practices help regions to meet the key pre-requisites for success in renewables: commitment, collaboration and communication.

For regions with more experience in one or more renewables, more advanced policy practices have been collected (‘Mature Markets’ 12% and ‘Saturated Markets’ 3%). Within the ‘Emerging Markets’ segment, a high concentration of technology demonstration practices can be observed, mainly originating in the sector-specific projects. The focus on demonstrating and showcasing technologies underlines a strong need for information and awareness-raising on the technological and economic possibilities that renewables can offer.

Of the 212 practices, the majority focused on bioenergy, geothermal energy, solar power and wind energy, though there were also a few practices that noted the potential of small hydropower and developments in ocean energy. Other practices did not focus on a particular renewable, instead covering multiple technologies, often with energy efficiency concerns.

With regard to the difficulties that regions encounter in achieving the desired impact, the project partners were mainly concerned by the complexity of transferring best practices into a different regional policy context and by the fact that projects stop when they are finally starting to create real thematic impact.

Whilst the desired impact on policy learning and governance processes can be achieved relatively quickly following the set-up of the consortium, the thematic impact comes towards the end of the project when best practices have been analysed and chosen for transfer. The projects have therefore suggested extending the project duration by one or two years to finalise the transfer processes and achieve greater thematic impact. 

How should INTERREG IVC go from here to increase and accelerate the thematic impact of the projects?

  • Manage and promote the body of renewable energy thematic knowledge: A lot of relevant thematic knowledge has been accumulated in an impressive body of over 200 policy initiatives for renewables. This knowledge can now be developed into a thematic policy toolbox to be promoted to regional policymakers, programme owners and stakeholders for use and implementation in their regions.
  • Complete and enrich renewable energy thematic knowledge: Relevant policy initiatives for the theme of renewable energy are also being developed or described by other European programmes such as Intelligent Energy Europe. To enlarge the renewable energy thematic knowledge, particularly in categories that are less well covered by the INTERREG IVC projects analysed for this report, it is proposed to also draw from the experience of projects carried out under other European Programmes This would make it possible to search and include additional practices covering all four stages of market development, thus enriching and completing a renewables policy tool box.
  • Accelerate the implementation of available ready-to-adapt best practices in the thematic area: The study team proposes the introduction of a new family of ‘accelerator’ projects that would complement the current INTERREG IVC project types. The accelerator projects would not start from scratch but would directly make use of the knowledge already gathered. Regions could apply and directly select a limited number of best policy practices that they would like to transfer into their own region. Following regional stakeholder discussions and compatibility assessments, a feasible practice would be selected for pilot implementation in the applicant region. Accelerator projects would run for 18 months and should not exceed €75 000. The accelerator projects would be supported by a thematic support structure that would manage the body of knowledge and accompany the projects with advice and guidance.

As of 31 December 2015, this website is no longer updated. Follow news on interregional cooperation at www.interregeurope.eu