Driving up Regional Cooperation for Renewables in the European Union

Renewable energy sources (RES) will have to play a predominant role in EU’s future energy mix. However, the current policy and regulatory framework does not entirely facilitate this transition but instead reflects a business-as-usual approach. The current RE target on EU level in the Climate and Energy 2030 Framework lacks ambition with regards to the low goal setting of “at least 27%” and due to its “EU-wide” level approach without member state contributions. In the light of this weak policy framework, there is one mechanism which may still help to increase the share of renewables to the scale and speed needed to counter today’s challenges: The idea of regional cooperations.


Regional cooperation can effectively bridge the gap between national renewable energy policies and a Europeanised approach to renewable energy deployment. Additionally, regional action across borders allows for participation of non-state actors, possibly a higher political legitimacy and fitted solutions for local conditions. A common cross-border identity might be facilitated through these projects and the revenue generated by the decentralized energy plants is more likely to stay within the region.

The study “Driving Regional Cooperation Forward in the 2030 Renewable Energy Framework”, written by the consultancy Ecofys on behalf of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s EU Office (HBF EU), explores the potential benefits of regional renewables cooperation and provides policy suggestions on how such cooperation can effectively be enhanced. In addition, findings from the World Future Council`s programme on 100% Renewable Energy in the EU show that there is a window of opportunity for adapting the legislative framework to strengthen regional cooperation on renewable energy. To harvest this potential and develop a strategy for implementation, a comprehensive and inclusive policy dialogue is needed to a) build cross-sectorial and multi-level-governance networks, b) learn from pioneering regions and pilot projects and c) build political momentum for the topic.

In a policy dialogue which included a workshop, a study tour and several consultations with practitioners and legislators, the following policy recommendations were identified to drive up regional cooperation for RE in the EU:

1)         Define Regional Cooperation

2)         Strengthen Territorial Cohesion through specific regulatory provisions

3)         Integrate cross-sectorial cooperation into regional cooperation

4)         Engage local and regional authorities in development of national energy and climate plans

5)         Enable Micro-Level Regional Cooperation

Together with our partner Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) EU office, we aimed at providing concrete examples and transferable policy solutions by discussing crucial questions with and in frontrunner regions. Therefore it was be organised in the framework of HBF’s #Regions4GreenEconomy series which are organised together with the representatives of different German Länder in Brussels, and the Global 100% RE Campaign #Go100RE.

With this programme, we built on some of the policy recommendations that were outlined in the HBF report “Driving regional cooperation forward in the 2030 renewable energy framework” (2015) as well as the findings from the World Future Council`s programme on 100% Renewable Energy in the EU .


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27074696870_ea42e42778_zThe kick-off event took place in the form of a stakeholder workshop on 25 and 26 of April 2016 in Brussels. It convened people from initiatives of cross-border cooperation, sharing learnings and examples from around Europe and representatives from EU institutions incl. European Commission, European Parliament, RE interests groups and energy regulators. In a policy dialogue it was explored how to foster RES deployment in the European Union by strengthening regions and regional cooperation. This report as well as this blog article share the insights and recommendation that were discussed. Please find all presentation and photos of the event below.

29344174463_5791ccbdfa_zFollowing up on this, in September 2016, a study-tour to the North Sea Region took place to build on these findings. 13 policy makers and shapers from 9 countries travelled 1.500 kilometers from Denmark via Germany and the Netherlands to Belgium. This 5-day tour served as a platform for in-depth learning about existing and possible future cooperation and provided thoughts, inspiration, opportunities and contacts to the participants. Watch this film to learn more about the tour. In a final meeting in the European Parliament, these insights were shared with representatives from the European Parliament and Commission. Please find all presentations and photos of the tour below.

In January 2017, three Members of the European Parliament Benedek Jávor (Greens/EFA), Jo Leinen (S&D) and Carolina Punset (ALDE) hosted a cross-party Policy Dialogue on this topic. European, national and local policy makers highlighted the role of renewable energy to re-connect the crises-stricken continent.

The debate has been summarized in this blog article.


Finally, in June 2017, we hosted a policy debate in the Committee of the Regions to discuss the particular tools and instruments for cross-border cooperation in the renewable energy sector with about 50 policy makers and key energy stakeholders from across Europe. By bringing local, regional and European stakeholders together, the policy debate provided input to the legislative process of the Clean Energy Package for All Europeans. A recording of the discussions can be viewed here. A full summary has been published here.