This article is part of our special report Rural Energy.
The EU's new flagship initiative for boosting growth and employment in Europe is surprisingly similar to the failed Lisbon Strategy, according to Klaus Klipp, general secretary of the Assembly of European Regions (AER).
He told EURACTIV Germany in an interview that energy policy was a case in point.
Assessing the 'Europe 2020' strategy presented by the European Commission in March, Klipp said "the proposal closely resembles the Lisbon Strategy of 2000, which had to be revised after people realised that innovation cannot be fostered without involving the regions".
"Innovation begins at home in local businesses," the AER boss stressed, claiming it is "problematic" to try to foster innovation via "centralised programmes".
"I'm not going to get innovations by writing laws in Brussels," Klipp said, expressing surprise at the extent to which the 'Europe 2020' blueprint resembles the "little-known"Lisbon Strategy, which he said had "never got through to people".
The German said the key to successfully fostering innovation – not to mention tackling issues like energy supply and energy efficiency – lies in encouraging European regions to learn from one another rather than drawing up policy in Brussels.
"If you embark on a centralised European planning process, you end up stifling all innovation in the regions. They'll just bring all their projects to a halt and wait for money from Brussels first," Klipp said, explaining that innovation doesn't come from telling other people what to do.
The AER boss singled out decentralising energy supply and ensuring that electricity is produced from a variety of sources as concrete examples of how regions can work together to help the EU to achieve its goals.
The UN estimates that 50-70% of climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts will have to come from the world's regions. For Klipp, this proves that energy is not just an issue for European and national politics to deal with. "Regions will implement global energy policy," he said.
Klipp said two-thirds of the AER's membership had already developed energy action plans centred on training skilled workers to manufacture new climate-friendly technologies.
"Fully localised self-sufficiency in the field of energy is of course unrealistic. But decentralising energy supply is nevertheless important for the regions, because it brings investment and creates local jobs," Klipp concluded.
He cited the Danish island of Bornholm, which produces 75% of its energy needs from seven different renewable sources, and Upper Austria, which with the exception of traffic emissions wants to be CO2-free by 2030, as examples of Europe's many regional energy projects.
The Assembly of European Regions is an independent network of 270 regions across 33 countries and 16 inter-regional associations. It promotes regional democracy and the principle of subsidiarity, and encourages European regions to work together.