Press releases

Rural areas show major potential for reducing greenhouse gases in Europe

Published: 21/09/2011

Ecofys and FREE initiative launch report on energy use in five EU countries

Brussels, Belgium/Utrecht, The Netherlands, 21 September 2011 - Europe’s rural areas can play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A switch from heating oil and coal to renewable energy sources or low carbon fuels in rural areas could reduce carbon emissions from households and services in five EU countries by up to the equivalent of 3500 small towns (35 megatonnes CO2). These are the main findings of a study carried out by global consultancy Ecofys and commissioned by the FREE initiative (Future of Rural Energy in Europe). The results are presented in Brussels today.

The study investigates energy use in rural regions of five EU countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom. It concludes that there are differences between the energy mix in rural and urban settings that give the potential for action in this area. Energy use in rural households and services relies less on natural gas, which is a relatively clean fossil fuel, while the share of heating oil, a carbon intensive fossil fuel, is higher in rural regions than in urban areas. Oil is also used in rural regions to power heavy equipment such as electricity generators and tractors in the agricultural sector. Coal, the report shows, is also widely used in many rural communities in Poland.

In France, rural greenhouse gas emissions from heating oil in households and services total around 10 megatonnes CO2. A full switch to renewable energy could result in emissions reductions in these areas equal to the emissions of around 1,000 small EU towns of 4,000 households. Even the use of non lower carbon fuels solution, such as LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) can bring about savings.

In the United Kingdom, differences in the energy mix between urban and rural homes are very pronounced. Rural greenhouse gas emissions from heating oil and coal in households and services are around 2.3 megatonnes CO2. Here, too, a full switch to renewable energy would result in emissions reductions equal to the emissions of around 200 small EU towns of 4,000 households.

Targeted policies aimed at energy use in rural areas could bring important environmental and economic benefits. The key is the right energy mix. Ann Gardiner, Director Strategy Division at Ecofys says: “It can be expensive to extend natural gas distribution into remote rural areas. A similar or even larger effect can be achieved by using renewable energy or other lower carbon alternatives that are available and locally generated.”

Sustainable energy has already established itself on the agendas of EU policy makers and this new study, which comes ahead of major decisions concerning the EU’s 2014-2020 EU budget, highlights the potential impact of support for sustainable energy systems in the EU areas. Europe’s rural areas, and the contribution they could make to reducing greenhouse gases, have been largely neglected to date by EU policymakers. This report provides a wealth of information on energy consumption patterns and on the gains that could be achieved through a transition to sustainable and low carbon energy systems in rural areas.

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About the FREE initiative:
To learn more about the FREE initiative and the ‘Rural Energy Day 2011’ please go to:

Ecofys – experts in energy
Established in 1984 with the vision of achieving “sustainable energy for everyone”, Ecofys has become the leading expert in renewable energy, energy & carbon efficiency, energy systems & markets as well as energy & climate policies. The unique synergy between those areas of expertise is the key to its success. Ecofys creates smart, effective, practical and sustainable solutions for and with public and corporate clients all over the world. With offices in the Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, China and the US Ecofys employs over 250 experts dedicated to solving energy and climate challenges.

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