By Birgitte Karnøe Frederiksen, EU Senior Adviser, Central Denmark EU Office
Since the structural reform in 2007, which created the regions in Denmark, including the region of Central Denmark, energy and climate have been major focus areas for growth and innovation, thereby boosting business development and R&D.
During the period, our region has followed and benefited from EU development within energy and climate such as: setting ambitious, political targets, finding cooperation partners among other regions, challenging assumptions and rethinking ways of going forward, and funding innovative projects – not least making use of the ERDF for business development and innovation.
It is no secret that Central Denmark Region is of the opinion that the EU continues its ambitious cooperation within the area of energy and climate, thereby paving the way for even better regional development.
When mentioning ‘energy and climate’, we think of the ‘classical’ energy mitigation projects such as the increased production of renewables and the boosting of energy efficiency, as well as their newer forms such as bioeconomy, circular economy and climate adaptation.
In all areas, political will at regional and local level has sustained realities on the ground – not least the ambition to have 50% renewable energy of total consumption by 2025. The Central Denmark region is well on track – today, 33% of consumption comes from renewables.
So, what has come out of this?
Early on, Regional Development Funds have been supporting energy and climate through ameliorating framework conditions for businesses.
To name just a few examples: from 2011 until 2014, the region funded an initiative to boost business development in the wind industry by, among others, analysing the whole value chain in the wind market, coaching industry leaders, forming networks, and evaluating the possibilities to connect wind mill suppliers to end-producers.
Another initiative launched an integrated, holistic, and strategic regional approach to energy planning and to assist local administrators to calculate baseline figures on CO2 emissions. Apart from ERDF, other EU-funds have underpinned this effort (e.g. 5 ELENA-projects in the region as well as a number of Interreg-funded projects).
Lately, the circular economy and the bioeconomy have become the primary areas within innovation in energy and climate. In the circular economy, the emphasis is on the development of new business designs is a leading element in the regional effort.
Examples include leasing, which allows a company to retain control of its raw materials after production, and industrial symbiosis, where waste products from one company become raw materials for another product.
Other elements of the circular economy are public-private partnerships, education and urban development. In bioeconomy, initiatives have focused on cross-connecting industries (regional and international – and the whole value chain) in the following areas: bio refinery based on grass (to the benefit of the environment), bio refinery based on marine biomass (thus closing the nutrition cycle) – and enhanced biogas production from residuals.
In 2014, the Central Denmark region was acknowledged as an EU frontrunner in bioeconomy, which gave the sector a renewed sense of direction.
The last example to be mentioned here is an increased focus on climate adaptation, which was initiated around 2012, getting a major boost with the allocation of 7 millioneuros from the EU in the form of support to an Life IP (total budget of 12 MEUR).
The Central Denmark region, leading the project named Coast 2 Coast Climate Challenge, has the ambition to become a hub for integrated, holistic approaches to climate adaptation, taking into account groundwater, sea and fjords, rivers and water in cities, as well as development of management tools and innovation. The project, which lasts for 6 years, has 32 partners, including universities, innovation centres, national government and business organisations.
As can be seen from the above, energy and climate issues have developed to become a stronghold in Central Denmark Region – spurred by EU cooperation, stimulated by EU co-financing and with a strong multi-level approach from local to EU level.
Further development will certainly benefit from a strong European and cross-regional focus on energy and climate. We are looking forward to contributing our part.