Sustainable energy a keystone for local development, Hübner tells conference in Southern Italy

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Sustainable energy is a keystone for local development. That is the central message Danuta Hübner, Commissioner for Regional Policy, will deliver at a conference on energy in Bari, Southern Italy, today. The conference, organised to develop Italy's regional development policy for 2007-2013, is entitled 'Sustainable, Competitive and Safe Energy'.

Mr Pier Luigi Bersani, Minister of Economic Development, and Mr Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, Minister of Environment, join Commissioner Hübner as keynote speakers at an event to prepare effective implementation of the energy priorities Italy has defined. The presidents of Italy's southern regions will also take part. The aim is to boost the proportion of renewable sources in the energy consumption of Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Basilicata. Italy's allocation of European Regional Development Fund investment for renewable energy sources and energy efficiency is the highest in the EU for the current funding period, €1.85 billion.
Speaking ahead of her visit, Commissioner Danuta Hübner highlighted the Commission's adoption of the Climate Change and Renewable Energy Package of measures on 23 January, and stressed the importance of local involvement to promote use of sustainable energy: "Promoting sustainable energy and enhancing the productive sectors involved are a vital part of Cohesion policy. I welcome the way in which Italy intends to trigger the effective exploitation of projects based on renewable energies. They will be an important factor for local economic development."

Italy has drawn up a specific multi-regional programme entitled: 'Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency', which the Commission adopted on 20 December. The programme will allow the development of innovative initiatives including:

high-temperature geothermal resources
development of buildings which require little energy for space heating
new biomass processes based on local components.
It will promote sustainable public transport, and there will also be work carried out on small islands and natural areas to combine the development of renewable energy and enhanced protection for the local environment.

Notes for editors

Italy and energy: Italy is the Member State which has committed the highest amount of funds to sustainable energy for the current funding period, 2007-2013. An allocation €1.85 billion from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has been earmarked, and of this, €1.45 billion is allocated to the Convergence regions (regions lagging behind): Campania, Puglia Calabria, Sicily and Basilicata.

Italy imports more than 85% of its energy needs, the highest share in the EU 15, accounting for almost 4% of Italian GDP. This is why it is crucial that it develops a sustainable energy strategy, and it has committed itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through all programmes supported by the EU, in line with 'best practice'. France, the UK and Malta are also working on these lines.

Visits to EU co-funded projects:

Puglia: On 24 January, Mr Nichi Vendola, President of the Puglia region will accompany the Commissioner during her visit to Bari. They will discuss the development strategy chosen by the region to implement Cohesion policy 2007-2013. The new programme will involve a total investment of € 5.2 billion (see MEMO/08/41). The Commissioner will see the restoration of the Cathedral which received support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounting to € 815 000. She will also visit the San Paolo district, previously a deprived area. A European contribution of € 7.5 million helped to create new green areas and lanes for cycles and pedestrians as well as new offices.

Basilicata: On 25 January, Danuta Hübner will meet Mr. Vito de Filippo, President of the Basilicata. She will visit churches and houses built in the rock ("Sassi") in the town of Matera. The ERDF contributed €5.6 million to renovate these, a heritage site which attests to the presence of monastic settlements, places of worship and communities of shepherds dating back to ancient times. The Commissioner will also visit the "CAPSDA-Matera" project which provides for WI-FI access points in the town, improving tourist information. The new programme for Basilicata involves investment of € 752 million for 2007-2013: see MEMO/08/42.

Italy and cohesion policy: key facts

State of play: Italy's National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) was adopted on July 2007 and 27 out of 28 Operational Programmes (Ops) have now been adopted. The final one, Culture and Tourism, will be adopted shortly.

EU resources for Italian Cohesion Policy 2007-2013: €28.7 billion (current prices). Breakdown: € 21.6 billion for Convergence, €6.3 billion for Competitiveness, €0,8 billion for Territorial cooperation. Earmarking for jobs and growth (Lisbon Agenda): 72.1%.
Source: By European Union

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