The role of local governments in promoting energy efficiency

fuel poverty, energy efficiency, local governmentAs climate emergency and increasing fuel poverty make energy transition solutions direly needed, local governments advocate and fund energy efficiency, while contributing to the broader discussion on our energy future.

Local approach in favour of energy efficiency

Upon the presentation of the conclusions of local discussions on energy issues, former energy minister Philippe said that the central government “seeks to promote a certain extent of autonomy for local authorities on energy issues”, therefore advancing energy efficiency at a local scale.

This is in line with recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which advocates several hundred billion-euro-investments in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency in order to achieve “dramatic cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, by 40 to 70% between 2010 and 2050 and 100% by 2100”.

In December 2013, the Sustainable Development Centre at Sciences Po organized its first annual conference in partnership with Rexel. According to Laurence Tubiana, director of the Sustainable Development Centre at SciencesPo Paris and facilitator of the national discussion on energy transition, “the increasing involvement of local communities in the discussion on energy transition illustrates the changes French society is going through”.

The National observatory on fuel poverty found that one in five French people will face heating problems this winter. Local authorities, being closer to citizens that the central government, are all the more aware of this and therefore understand the necessity of advancing energy efficiency.

Regional governments have been fully involved in the national energy strategy since the Grenelle de l’Environnement, especially as part of the regional Air, Energy and Climate action plan (SRCAE). This scheme has enabled many local governments to promote energy efficiency. For instance, the Local Energy and Climate Agency of the Gironde and Greater Bordeaux area organized a roundtable in early October, which brought together guests from across Europe to share best practice with respect to energy efficiency in public buildings.

Local governments’ contributions to energy efficiency

A report published in October 2014 by CDC Climat Recherche on French climate investments assessed how much public money has been spent on energy efficiency.  The study found that over 8 billion euros were invested in energy efficiency in 2011. However, only 4 out of 22 billion euros devoted to climate investments came from public funds.

One of the most innovative local experiments conducted so far is the “energy efficiency public service” that has been launched in Picardy. Inspired from the British Green Deal, the scheme involves carrying out renovation works in residential buildings, “where loan repayment costs must not exceed the savings achieved on heating bills”.

However, local efforts to foster energy efficiency are not limited to investment expenditures. For instance, the Grenoble Management School published its second Energy Market Barometer. According to the more than 100 experts involved in the study, improving energy efficiency must remain a priority in the future.

Last April, the Alsace region opened a forum on local approaches to energy efficiency in the building sector, thus demonstrating that local authorities provide a key platform for dialogue. Etienne Wurtz, research manager at CNRS-CEA[1] insisted that “optimizing and pooling energy production and consumption should take precedence over each building’s individual energy performance”. Such collective policy choices are best made at the local level.

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[1] National Centre for Scientific Research – Atomic Energy Commission

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