MEPs call for decentralised energy impetus

Members of the European Parliament have spoken out about the need for decentralised energy to be used in rural areas.

Polish MEP Wojciech Olejniczak has called for extra measures to protect rural areas which he says are the "most threatened by energy poverty".

The former Polish agriculture minister was speaking at a debate in parliament on EU energy policy towards rural regions.

The Socialist member said the EU needs to review rural energy as part of overall energy policy.

He added, "The focus of EU energy policy should not be only on large infrastructure projects, but should include decentralised energy and regional and local levels."

Olejniczak, shadow-rapporteur on an upcoming parliamentary energy report, particularly referred to the efficiency gains made through micro-cogeneration and the potential for smart grids.

He stated that "rural areas are most threatened by energy poverty" as they are located far away from centralised energy generation.

Further comment at the hearing came from Dutch MEP Lambert van Nistelrooij, who is the assembly's rapporteur on the general regulation for the future of structural funds for the period 2014-2020.

The EPP deputy said, "We can't deny that sustainable energy choices for rural communities are already there. But how do we enable that the right choices are made?"

"Member states need to come up with proposals. That's what is needed to make cleaner, more efficient energy choices a reality."

Another keynote speaker was Irish centre-right MEP Seán Kelly who pleaded for "rural issues to be put at centre stage, as people in these areas feel marginalised".

On the issue of funding, Kelly emphasised the need to "give ownership to local communities, and energy is a good area to start as it's concrete, doable and creates jobs whilst being in line with the EU's 2020 objectives".

He also stressed the additional need for a "huge education process to be undertaken" in order for rural citizens to be aware of the available options to make such an energy transition and understand its impact on the environment and on their lives.

Kelly referred to the 'pay-as-you-save' type of initiatives currently discussed in the UK and Ireland that, he said, "motivate and practically enable consumers to make new energy and energy efficiency choices".

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