After only 18 months in existence, the unique partnership between the AER and GE has become an undeniable force in the support and promotion of the importance of the development of sustainable energy policies at regional levels
Established in May 2009, the cooperation between the Assembly of European Regions (AER) and GE Energy was the result of a shared ideology that to find solutions to Europe’s energy challenges and succeed in the battle against climate change, Europe’s regions must play a central role in establishing and implementing their respective energy policies. The partnership brings together the AER’s work of boosting the involvement of regional authorities and the knowledge and expertise that GE Energy has at its disposal to provide support and to facilitate the EU’s energy targets in a more practical and achievable manner.
Led by Michèle Sabban, President of the AER, and Ricardo Cordoba, President of GE Energy for Western Europe and North Africa, this coalition of public and private sector strives to promote the value of the role of regions and federal states, and the impact they can and will have on sustainability, securing energy supplies and respect for the environment. Together, the two entities are a perfect match thanks to GE Energy’s wealth of experience and the AER’s reach and relationship with its extensive network of regional authorities, who, so far, have organised many activities and initiatives to advance their cause.
Local actions with global impact
The underlying characteristic of any action taken by this joint venture is that every activity is designed to involve both regional decision makers and energy experts from all over Europe so that decisions made are more informed and complement the region that they will affect.
The first event to put this objective into practice was the AER’s 2009 Annual General Assembly where they made energy the main focus. Hosted by GE Energy at its European headquarters in Belfort, the 3 day event gave 600 regional decision makers the opportunity to take control of their territories’ energy futures and develop joint solutions in collaboration with GE’s energy experts. Under the topic Energising Europe Responsibily, the European regions presented the challenges they face in terms of changing energy requirements, through a series of meetings presentations, interactive forums and discussions.
The success of the convention was closely followed up by the announcement of the AER’s commitment to the R20 declaration during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009. Officially launched in November 2010, the initiative, as instigated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in conjunction with his ‘Global Summit on Climate Change’, mirrors the appeals made by the partnership in that it will support willing developing regions to design and implement their own individual Climate Change and Energy Regional Package (CCERP). Representing a host of different and distinct climates, the R20 declaration aims to ensure that developing and emerging nations are equipped with the necessary scientific, institutional and financial capacities to ensure their contribution to the offsetting of their carbon emissions.
AER President Michèle Sabban commented, “In an energy landscape in constant evolution and more decentralised than ever before, European regions play a crucial role in coming up with energy solutions for their territories. By partnering with the R20 group, we officially affirm our commitment to the goals and principles of the Global Climate Solutions Declaration. We are happy and proud to officially support the R20 group and to tackle climate change together”. The R20 group was created in order to aid the execution of the results of the Copenhagen Summit and urge the respective governments of the 20 participating regions to take firm action in the fight against climate change.
European Regions Energy Day
In keeping with the momentum and impact of the AER-GE partnership, another high-profile joint initiative was devised. April 2010 saw the inaugural European Regions Energy Day, an event which is set to become an annual occasion to mark the culmination of the year’s close collaboration between the two partners. Attended by 300 regional decision makers and European energy experts over the course of two days, this year’s meeting focused on providing recommendations on three main areas: energy efficiency, security of supply and carbon dioxide emissions reduction.
One of the highlights of this year’s event was the presentation of the AER’s White Paper; a detailed report into the group’s energy and climate change activities in relation to the European regions in the establishment of mitigation and adaptation measures. More importantly, the European Regions Energy Day served as a dynamic platform from which to release the results of the AER’s exclusive survey. Completed by 67 European regions out of 270 regions from 33 countries, the survey sought to assess their needs and expectations in regards to sustainable policies. The study found that the local authorities who boasted broader competences and enjoyed more financial incentives were more heavily involved in developing solutions to energy challenges through the harnessing of local resources than their fellow counterparts.
The value of regional energy Renewable energy and energy efficiency are topics that are continuously on the agenda. Even in times of recession the search to find feasible, adequate solutions has not abated with the green energy sector bucking the trend and continuing to grow. The reason is that developing and delivering smarter, cleaner and more efficient energy is not only environmentally friendly but, in the long run, economically friendly. Renewable energy technologies are not only a worthwhile environmental investment; they can also facilitate large savings and generate significant job creation – an important factor for countries trying to break free from the shackles of the recession.
The development of green energy at regional level is critical. Not only does it shorten the decision making time by avoiding the institutional red tape of government authorities but it ensures that the operation, decision making and implementation of policies that affect the people of the region will be made by their own local authorities. Regions are cutting out the middleman and taking their future into their own hands, with 77 per cent of the 67 regions survey already employing their own environmental strategies.
As the development of energy initiatives moves further towards decentralised, smaller power-generation projects, the support that the GE-AER partnership provides can never be under estimated. With GE Energy’s access to teams of technical experts and the AER’s regional strength in local on-the-ground engagement, regions will continue reap the benefits of this innovative and unprecedented marriage.