How to achieve a fair and inclusive energy transition? Final insights from Sun4All

21 June 2024

How to achieve a fair and inclusive energy transition? Final insights from Sun4All

On June 13th, the Sun4All project consortium, in collaboration with the Climate Alliance, co-organised a policy session during the European Sustainable Energy Week in Brussels. This session focused on the role of local authorities in promoting a fair and inclusive European Green Deal. Following the policy session, the consortium hosted a policy cocktail, bringing together a diverse audience to highlight the outcomes of the Sun4All project, which is nearing completion. The two events gathered over 300 participants in total, shedding light on the nexus between energy poverty alleviation and the clean energy transition.

You can (re)watch the EUSEW Policy Session here.

On behalf of the Sun4All team, we extend our heartfelt thanks to the speakers at both events for sharing their insights and expertise. Here are some of the key inputs from researchers, practitioners and local authorities on how local action can help alleviate injustices in the energy system through a diversity of initiatives and partnerships of stakeholders.

Transforming energy justice: local empowerment and policy adaptation

Approximately 70% of European energy legislation is implemented locally. Local and regional authorities, familiar with community-specific challenges, are essential for ensuring that vulnerable groups benefit from the energy transition. Building trust in local governments and enhancing the role of social workers are key for addressing these needs effectively.

Local governments are crucial for the European Green Deal, serving as innovation hubs for scalable energy solutions. Yet, they face financial, regulatory, and capacity challenges that can delay effective implementation. Positive examples like Besançon, France, show promise. The city's programme for energy poverty includes energy assessments and personalised support for vulnerable households, highlighting the importance of building trust and directly engaging citizens to reduce energy bills and improve living standards.

Lessons from New York

With a commitment to environmental justice, New York State ensures that a significant portion of investments in clean energy (40%) benefits disadvantaged communities. The different projects that we heard more about from New York, including the Solar For All programme, exemplifies the balance between scale and depth in inclusion—while scaling up increases the number of beneficiaries, it may reduce the level of individual engagement and education. Perhaps food for thought for the European Green Deal moving forward—how can scale and depth of social inclusion be balanced.

Sun4All: From energy to community focus

Sun4All advocates for shifting from fossil fuel systems to community-driven, renewable energy. It leverages locally generated solar energy to provide financial and non-financial support to households, allowing them to access renewable energy without personal investment in solar panels. This model also promotes “community energy” by offering workshops on energy rights and efficiency. Modeled after New York’s Solar for All and piloted in four European cities and regions, this project illustrates how adapting policies to local contexts can promote energy justice and combat energy poverty. To ensure lasting impact, Sun4All collaborates with nine partner cities and initiatives, forming a Community of Practice dedicated to combating energy poverty and sustaining community energy efforts.

Moving forward

To support local governments and stakeholders, European and national policymakers must provide the necessary means and support to implement policies effectively at the local level. Enhancing local capacities and removing regulatory hurdles are essential to achieving the ambitious objectives set for the continent.

Image (Clotilde Mahé)

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This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N°101032239.