This quote, often (falsely) attributed to Winston Churchill, fits well to special advisor Brendan Devlin’s ambitions for the meeting arranged in Brussels on the 5-6th of March 2018. The topic was the clean energy for EU Islands Initiative, the purpose was to listen to the islanders and Brendan Devlin has a particular interest in the EU islands’ potential for faster decarbonisation.
DG ENER’s vision is to speed up the EU countries’ move from fossil fuel dependency and they are starting with the islands.
Setting up a secretariat
Anna Colucci, Head of unit DG ENER opened the meeting which was attended by about 30 participants, representing both islands and EU institutions. How can we make the decarbonizing of all European the islands work? was the question asked, considering that islands are now seen as innovation leaders in this field. The Commission will set up a Clean Energy Islands Secretariat in Brussels. The 2 year secretariat with a budget of 2 millions will carry out benchmarking studies, awareness rasing and capacity building for islands decarbonization plans.
After this period, the intention is to replace the secretariat with an Island Facility through a tender or call within Horizon 2020 which will be worth 10 Millions euros.
A holistic view on energy
It was stressed that the energy concept covers energy in a broad and holistic perspective: it means heating, cooling, electricity, transport on islands and to and from islands as well as blue energy. It is important not isolate energy from other issues, but to find and use synergies. “Good solutions are welcomed, not only future solutions”, said Brendan Devlin . “What is better might not be what is best, it has to be better than today´s situation.” Highlighting best practice being very important, to that end, presentations from the island of Öland’s biogas scheme and the ambitious wind and desalination schemes in the Canaries were made which elicited very good feedback.
Speakers from DG ENER, DG REGIO, DG CLIMA, DG INNOVATION AND RESEARCH DG ENVIRONMENT, all contributed their various perspectives, including simplification for administrations for new projects (where ESIN has been active) and the obligatory task for member states to have a One-Place-Stop for contacts/new projects.
Small islands are included
The issue of the smaller islands not being visible at NUTS level is taken into consideration as within the NUTs area definition there are only 700 islands when there in fact are 2,000 more, making a total of 2,700.
Denis Bredin and Camille Dressler, ESIN
What do islands want?
The islands were asked what were their main issues:
– ESIN, represented by chairman Camille Dressler and Denis Bredin from AIP/France, said the smaller island communities perspective is really important, making sure smaller renewable energy suppliers had access to the market and were able to reap the benefits locally.
– From the Netherlands, how to involve the user side of the energy issues was the question, It was not all about the supplier.
– The Balearic islands explained their plans for the further development of their ecotourism tax and a goal of total decarbonization by 2050 hampered by lack of national political will.
– The Greek islands would like DG ENER to consider microfinance and project consultation for smaller projects not just big ones as in Horizon2020 as a number of islands are very small and do not have the resources to participate in large projects.
– Storage was the main issue for the Azores.
– Cyprus wanted to see more cooperation between citizens and local authorities.
– The Faroes islands want to decarbonize their fishing fleet.
We appreciated DG ENER’s will to sit down and listen. This two-way discussion was promising, and another meeting is planned after the summer which will include a travel budget. In the meantime, DG ENER wants to hear from as many islands associations and organisations as possible.
There is a difference between listening and just waiting for your turn to speak. Thank you Brendan.