On the 21 March 2014, INTERREG Europe closed an EU-wide public consultation on its new draftCooperation Programme and Environmental Assessment report. INTERREG is an initiative that aims to stimulate cooperation between regions in the European Union.

The programme is aimed to fund interregional cooperation projects which allow partners from the different EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland to work together on shared regional policy issues. The allocation of funding in various regions can have a considerable impact on remote and rural regions, including their respective energy solutions.

FREE welcomes the two documents and has sent a full official response to the consultation. FREE is especially pleased to see included within the draft Cooperation Programme that renewable energy offers specific opportunities within the more ‘peripheral regions.’ However FREE believes that the context mentioned here is too broad and that remote, rural and mountainous regions should be mentioned explicitly.

FREE also believes that the energy situation in rural areas should be more prominently mentioned among specific objectives under the “Low Carbon Economy” priority axis in the Strategic Environmental Assessment and the draft Cooperation Programme text.

There are many reasons why remote and rural areas should be included within this axis. Rural dwellers tempt to use dirtier energy sources, there is  poor standard of energy efficiency found in rural building stock and the countryside is struggling with managing the impact of CO2, and other air pollutants such as SOx and NOx on their daily life. While local authorities have already shown great interest in improving their energy situations in remote and rural areas, this move should be further supported by projects encouraging cleaner, more energy efficient and sustainable energy solutions. FREE believes that providing a reference only to urbanised areas, as this is currently the case, might discourage potential rural projects. It is important that non-urbanised areas are treated with the same level of regional importance than cities and towns.

Original author: Frederic Grillet