The pilot project “Smart Eco-Social Villages” initiated by the EU Parliament and supported by the EU Commission is about to end, a final event took place on February 21st and 22nd at the EU Parliament to share the lessons learned and talk about what it means for EU policies and budget.
The goals of the project were to maps the rural challenges in Europe, to give a definition of Smart Villages and to identify practical solutions. You probably have your own definition of what a Smart Village is, but how can we give a generic definition? Here is the one proposed by the pilot project, from the 30 interviews conducted in 19 villages from 13 European countries, the online consultation and the collaborative workshop:
“Smart Villages are communities in rural areas that use innovative solutions to improve their resilience, building on local strengths and opportunities. They rely on a participatory approach to develop and implement their strategy to improve their economic, social and/or environmental conditions, in particular by mobilising solutions offered by digital technologies. Smart Villages benefit from cooperation and alliances with other communities and actors in rural and urban areas. The initiation and the implementation of Smart Village strategies may build on existing initiatives and can be funded by a variety of public and private sources.”
To complete the definition, the key terms are further defined by the project:
“Communities in rural areas can include one or several human settlements, without any restrictions regarding the administrative boundaries or the number of inhabitants. As regards eligibility conditions for support, Member States may use definitions of rural areas as provided for by the OECD, EUROSTAT or other definitions.”
“A participatory approach means an active participation of the local community in the drawing up and decision-making regarding the Smart Village strategy. During the implementation phase, the participatory approach will ensure that the needs for capacity building and for training of people are properly addressed.”
“Digital technologies include, for example, information and communication technologies, the exploitation of big data or innovations related to the use of the Internet of Things (IoT). They act as a lever to enable Smart Villages to become more agile, make better use of their resources and improve the attractiveness of rural areas and the quality of life of rural residents. The use of digital technologies is not a precondition for becoming a Smart Village. Where possible, high-speed broadband will facilitate the deployment of the digital solutions.”
“Smart Village strategies respond to the challenges and needs of their territory by building on their local strengths and assets. Strategies must determine short, medium and long-term goals. Progress must be measurable through performance indicators that will be set in a roadmap. These roadmaps should be reviewed at regular intervals to allow continuous improvement. Strategies may aim, for example: to improve access to services (in various fields such as health, training or transport), to enhance business opportunities and create jobs, to the development of short food supply chains and farming practices, to the development of renewable energies, to development of a circular economy, to a better exploitation of natural resources, to adapt to climate change, to preserve the environment and biodiversity, to a better valorisation of the cultural heritage for a greater tourist attractiveness etc. “
Smart Villages do exist as of now, the project gave them the name “Smart” to describe their innovation. They will be integrated into EU policies, as annonced, first as a result indicator in the CAP strategy plans, and funding will be dedicated to them as of 18% of the 5% of the Cohesion fund dedicated to rural and handicaped areas development (to be confirmed by EU Commission during the plenary session in March). This would represent about 2.4 billion € for the implementation of Smart Villages in Europe, and 14.5 billion € for rural development. Another significative progress that was reminded is the Agreement of October 3rd 2018 in favor of a European Rural Agenda, proposition pushed forward by the European Countryside Movement and RURENER through the RUMRA intergroup.
Questions remain regarding the link to the LEADER programme and the underlying strategy to plan rural development on the long term. Indeed, if it looks good to be a “Smart Village” today, the ambition must remain despite the changes of terminology in EU policies. To be continued…
Compte-rendu de l’événement (RURENER)
On February 14th-16th the second edition of the Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development (STRD) event took place in Bergamo, Italy. RURENER was invited to talk about the Lands of Study initiative, promoting rural territories for their exemplarity in terms of energy. It was a good opportunity to evaluate the relevant of the offer within the world of tourism… And it was well received! The pilot territories currently involved in the project were presented with a focus on the Natural Park of Gaume (Belgium) and the Communauté d’agglomération de l’Ouest Rhodanien (France). There’s work ahead to develop the offer further, but Lands of Study has potential to make its place in the tourism market.
If you’re not familiar with the Lands of Study, visit the page on our website!
And of you’re interested in becoming a Land of Study, send us an email and we will check out your potential!
The 20th edition of the European Conference for the Energy Transition took place in Dunkirk from the 22nd to the 24th of January. The event gathered around 2,500 people, ten times more than for its first edition in 1999: local authories, energy experts, associations and networks, governments, businesses, students, etc. Three stimulating days to learn about what’s happening in other places and how we can reach our common goals… And there’s work ahead of us!
RURENER was present and presented a session untitled “Governance in transition: rural territories speaking”. We started the session with Stéphane Hartman who presented the process of citizens’ involvement in the Province of Luxembourg, from the Citizen Climate Assembly to the reinforcement of citizens power in the territory. Josep Subirana Jové followed, presenting the achievements of the municipality of Avià in Catalunya. In Avià, the municipality was the first to choose the sustainable development path, seeing it as the only way to go. Reinvesting the money from the energy savings, the municipality encourages financially local citizens and local businesses to invest in renewable energy.
Last but not least, Philippe Cortès, founder of the SME Granges Solaires shared his insights on the necessity to relocalize energy and change the centralised system to a decentralized production. He highlighted the crucial role of local municipalities and citizens to face the energy challenges. Vice-president of RURENER, Philippe also emphasized on the importance of sharing experience and knowledge through networks like RURENER to gain time and money and learn from one another.
We decided to give the final word of the session to the audience and asked them what word came to their mind when talking about “governance”, here’s what they said:
And you, what do you think? Is governance a subject you want to address in your territory? Did you experiment solutions? Let us know!
Download the full report here!
From December 3rd to December 14th, the Conference Of the Parties (COP) 24 was held in Katowice, Poland. What to do with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the impacts of a 1.5°C rise? The report, requested during COP21, was not welcomed as four countries – the USA, Russia, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – refused to do so, stating there were scientific gaps within the report. Even thou countries are invited to use it, the report was not officially welcomed during COP24 which raises many questions as of the engagement of the world’s countries.
The Paris rulebook was agreed, defining how countries contribute financially to the fight against climate change, and how their manage (and lower) their emissions. Some delicate questions however, were delayed to COP25 in Chile, for instance the voluntary carbon markets.
More details on the outcomes of COP24 here : https://www.carbonbrief.org/cop24-key-outcomes-agreed-at-the-un-climate-talks-in-katowice
All in all, COP24 reflects the difficulties of the governments to reach an agreement that can really make a difference. Once more, we are far from the strong commitments needed, and the young Greta Thunberg (15) from Sweden says it all. Is she right? Are we completely helpless to face climate change?
Maybe we can still make a difference. We, at the local level. To show governments how it’s done. Once they can see it’s possible, maybe they will believe it and use these examples to make their policies. As Greta says, “instead of looking for hope, let’s look for actions because when you start to act, hope is everywhere”.
Brace yourself, if the change is coming, it's coming from "the bottom"!
Avià is a small municipality in Catalunya, part of the Bergueda county and about 1h30 drive north of Barcelona. With its 2 257 inhabitants, Avià is a rural community that committed to the energy transition for two main reasons. One is that climate change is an urgent threat and that we must ALL act NOW if we want our children to live on a liveable planet. Two is that the energy transition is a real opportunity for local development. Indeed, Avià has been giving subsidies to its inhabitants thanks to the energy savings made on public buildings and lighting. These savings represent 50 000€ every year, a significant amount that is re-injected in the local economy. Economy also comes from the installation of solar panels on public buildings, now facilitated by the change of regulation concerning self-consumption in Spain. With this economy, the local government of Avià give 2,000€ subsidies to private individuals and industries willing to self-produce their electricity using solar panels.
A pioneer Local Urban Plan is about to be approved by the Territorial Planning Commission of Central Catalunya, authorizing the installations of solar panels on the buildings of the city with the lowest limitations possible. The should boost the installations of solar panels and may allow Avià to become the town with the most solar panels in Catalunya!
But that’s not it, the energy transition is a real transversal challenges and Avià took it as such. They created a local carpooling system, invested in biodegradable public dog bags.
Avià has muh more to offer, and not just regarding energy, the town promotes the work of local artists as well. Avià puts a focus on local development as mentionned in introduction of the post, but local does not mean isolated and cooperation and exchanges of experience mean a lot to the local government. In this regard, they also support the use of solar energy in Senegal (training of local people for maintenance of solar panels…).
We hope this got you motivated to take action because local governments can make a difference. Change is implemented at the local level, always keep that in mind!
If you want to hear more about Avià or directly get in touch with the Councilor for the Environment of the town, Josep Subirana, who will be delighted to tell you more, send us an email at email@example.com.
From September 12th to September 14th, RURENER had its 2018 General Assembly, hosted by Le Pays de Combraille en Marche in the Creuse department, France. It was a great opportunity for our members to meet and discuss about their common interests and problematics regarding how to conduct the energy transition in rural areas.
We had the opportunity to visit different places, all linked to the energy transition :
- Wood-fuel heat network with a storage platform in Parsac-Rimondeix
- Waste heat project from thermal activity in Evaux-les-Bains
- Visit of Filature Fonty, a spinning-industry very involved in renewables, in Rougnat
- Inauguration of the “Halle Petite Vitesse” in Felletin, made with a solar roof
We would like to thank everyone that came to this field study tour as well as our General Assembly : our dear members, the elected representatives that welcomed us, and Le Pays de Combraille en Marche for their hospitality.
See you next year !
From September 12th to September 14th will take place our 2018 General Assembly, associated with a field study tour, “From idea to action for the energy transition in rural Europe” hosted by Le Pays de Combraille en Marche (Creuse department, France). We invite you to learn more about the detailed programme here (English) or here (Français).
Many visits are planned on thursday, such as :
- Waste heat project from thermal activity
- Hot water production from renewable energy
- Energy efficiency in private buildings
- Inauguration of a solar roof on an old merchandise hall
For more information on tariffs, see our “Events” page and click on “RURENER General Assembly 2018”. Hope we will see you there !
RURENER exists since 2008 and promotes a transversal approach of rural development by addressing the energy issues. Our network is growing everyday and it was time to give a little kick to our graphic charter and think about a more modern logo.
So here it is ! We are proud to present you our brand new logo, made with love. If you are a member of our network, we invite you to use this new logo by downloading it here or here. If you are not a member yet, and whish to, we invite you to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to count you as a new partner !
The RURENER team
“How to break down barriers between local action and European policies?” That was the main topic of RURENER’s session at the European Sustainable Energy Week that took place in Brussels from June 4th to June 8th. It was a great honor for the RURENER team to lead this panel as around 100 people came there to listen and interact with the speakers on how to combine top-down and bottom-up approaches regarding rural energy. Most people attended the conference to get inspired by local insights or to lean about EU opportunities and programs and were working at the regional level or at the EU level.
We co-organized the session with:
- Josep Subirana, Councilor for the environment and quality of life in the Municipality of Avià in Catalunya. Josep works at the very local level of the village with public and private sectors, but he is also trying to share Avià’s successes with other villages around to invite them to have a similar approach and to take action for the climate. (PPT link)
- Patrizia Nazio, Project Manager of the CESBA Alps Project for the Region Piemonte in Italy. The CESBA-Alps project seeks to develop a shared approach of monitoring-evaluation of impact on the built environment in the Alpine Space region. (PPT link)
To enrich the discussion, we had the pleasure to invite:
- Bernard Chaverot, President for the Energy Transition Commission in the Association of Communities Les Monts du Lyonnais in France. (PPT link)
- Julije Domac, President of the FEDARENE (European Federation of Agencies and Regions for Energy and the Environment). Julije is an expert in renewable energy and energy efficiency at the international level, and has worked for the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Energy Agency. (PPT link)
We started our reasoning by facing that rural territories are resilient when it comes to facing local challenges and adapting to a changing environment through the development of innovative local solutions. However, these territories often have access to small means from the EU, either because the European tools are not adapted to rural areas, or because rural stakeholders are not aware of the existence of these tools. On the other hand, European institutions are asking for feedbacks from these territories to build future policies and allocate the budget. It is a two-ways dialogue that is difficult to settle while both approaches, bottom-up and top-down are sharing common goals. This connection is a real challenge that would benefit to both sides, that are currently suffering from a deteriorated trust in the EU institutions for rural territories, and a limited impact of European policies in these territories.
We asked to the audience what was the first word that came to their mind while thinking about “Local action” and the results were quite interesting. They wrote “engagement”, “empowerment”, “community” or “citizens”. We did the same for “The EU” and the results were “peace” or “together”. This gives a great insight on how people perceive the power of acting at a local level, by connecting human beings and believing in community.
The main barriers that were identified during the session were: political barriers, administrative complexity at the EU or national level, economic barriers, or a mutual misunderstanding of scales. EU institutions need to work on that, as well as state members to accelerate the energy transition and reach the 2030 and 2050 goals. This discussion was very refreshing and has proved us that we are evolving in the right direction by being the voice of rural European communities in the fight against climate change.
We would like to give a big THANK YOU to everyone that attended the session, but also to our speakers that did such a great job at debating on those subjects and answering the questions of the audience. Thank you to the European Commission for organizing the EUSEW 2018 and welcoming us in the wonderful Residence Palace.
See our report : Click here
Lisez notre rapport : Cliquer ici
See you next year EUSEW!
Last week, the territory of Nagypáli (Hungary) won the E.ON Energy Globe Award in the municipality category, rewarding them for their efforts in sustainability. Nagypáli started the “Green Road Village Development Programme” twenty years ago. As a result of the programme, today almost all forms of renewable energy are displayed in the center of the village: emerald trees, hybrid power plants (wind and solar), photovoltaic solar panels, electric cars and electric filling stations in the village.
The next step is a biogas plant which is currently under project management. This unique programme encompasses residents and elected representatives that are doing their best to be the more sustainable possible.