Author Archives: brusselsdiplomatic

THE ENERGY TRANSITION: NEW DIALOGUES BETWEEN THE CITY OF ROME & LOCAL STAKEHOLDERS

 

The City of Rome is strongly involving stakeholders in shaping the city’s future, particularly, regarding the energy transition.

In fact, stakeholders and organisations will be very soon involved in key strategic decision-making to help the City administration of Rome to install infrastructures for charging electric vehicles.

On the other side, it will be easier for the local stakeholders wishing to install electric infrastructures in Rome. This because the City of Rome will renounce to request them the taxes regarding the “occupation of public land” as well as the building permit.

In addition, The City Administration decided to increase the possibility of commercial surface inside the areas of electric charging distributors. This opportunity will repay the investment of the stakeholders on the electric charging points.

But there’s more: an App will be also created in which citizens can propose to the Local Authority the areas of the city where to install electric infrastructures. Then, the City Administration will check the availability of the areas to be equipped with electric charging stations.

The City Assembly Resolution 92/2017 containing the Rome’s Plan of Electric Mobility 2017-2020 was in fact approved last 19 of April 2018.

The Resolution regards the “Regulations for the construction and management of public access systems to be used exclusively for the recharging of vehicles powered by electricity”.

The Rome’s City Councilor for Mobility, Linda Meleo, explained during the City Assembly that the Plan is an important act, because it introduces the first Electric Mobility Plan which defines addresses on what and how electric mobility must be implemented. In addition, it defines the new horizontal and vertical signage linked to the stalls for charging electric vehicles and introduces a framework of rules for the installation of electric infrastructures in the city.

The Plan aims to a minimum target that is to provide the capital city with at least 700 electric charging points, distributed in a capillary way also in the most peripheral areas, by 2020. Through this Plan, Rome intends to achieve more ambitious objectives in order to become an attractive pole of electric mobility. Six macro areas have been identified, going from the city centre to the peri-urban areas, in order to ensure the installation of more electric charging points: from the service stations of the “GRA”, the Rome’s ring road, to the ancient Aurelian Walls, in order to meet the needs of citizens, so as to allow citizens to recharge their own vehicle wherever they are.

The regulations for the implementation of the electric infrastructures in Rome establish, as follows:

• Subjects entitled to submit an application for the implementation of charging electric points

• Technical constraints for the applications

• Technical documentation and building permit procedures

• Duration of the building permit and guarantees

• Technical characteristics of the electric infrastructures

• Stall signaling

• Management, information and integration constraints; monitoring and penalties

• Exemption from building permit charges

• Transitional rules for the managers of the charging stations activated before the entry into force of the Regulation

This Regulation fits perfectly with the actions undertaken by EV ENERGY project, such as the meetings with stakeholders carried out during 2017-2018.

Claudio Bordi

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EU to modernised trade defence rules

“With today’s approval by the Council, we are very close to having the necessary tools to tackle unfair trading practices even more effectively. The EU stands for open and rules-based trade, but we must also ensure that others do not take advantage of our openness. I now look forward to the adoption of the new rules by the European Parliament to allow for their swift entry into force.” Said trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström.

The Council gave a formal approval to the political agreement reached between the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament on 5 December 2017 to modernise the EU’s trade defense instruments.The changes to the EU’s anti-dumping and anti-subsidy regulations will make the EU’s trade defence instruments more adapted to the challenges of the global economy: they’ll become more effective, transparent and easier to use for companies. In some cases they will also enable the EU to impose higher duties on dumped products. The new rules will shorten the current investigation period and make the system more transparent. The companies will benefit from an early warning system that will help them adapt to the new situation in case duties are imposed. Smaller companies will also get assistance from a help desk, to make it easier for them to trigger and participate in trade defence proceedings. Also, in some cases, the EU will adapt its ‘lesser duty rule’ and may impose higher duties. This will apply to cases targeting imports of unfairly subsidised or dumped products from countries where raw materials and energy prices are distorted.

EU action reduces pollution from shipping in European coastlines

“Environmental rules deliver and protect our citizens’ quality of life when all sides involved work together to correctly apply them. The shared commitment by Member States, industry, and the maritime community as a whole is paying off. People living around protected sea areas can breathe cleaner and healthier air. And we have preserved the level playing field for industry.“Said Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs.

Air pollution from sulphur oxides (SOx) emitted from ships has substantially dropped over the past years, a new compliance report shows. This positive trend is the result of joint efforts by Member States and the maritime industry to implement EU rules under the Sulphur Directive and opt for cleaner fuel. EU mechanisms to technically and financially support Member states to reduce emissions were an important factor in compliance. Since 2015, stricter limits in the designated ‘Sulphur Oxides Emissions Control Areas’ of the North and Baltic Seas have more than halved emissions, while the overall economic impact on the sector remained minimal. The report comes days after a landmark agreement at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050. Both illustrate the commitment of the Commission to the goals of the Paris Agreement and to a Europe that protects with cleaner air for all. Exhaust gases from ships are indeed a significant source of emission and impact on citizens’ health and the environment.

EU €1.5 billion investments in Lebanon

The European Union has always been on the side of Lebanon and the Lebanese people. A strong and resilient Lebanon is in our collective interest, in the interest of the entire region. Lebanon is a mirror of the whole Middle East, of its diversity, complexity and beauty. With this new package, the European Union reconfirms its support to the Lebanese economy, for the benefit of the Lebanese people, and encourages the Government of Lebanon to pursue the path of structural reforms it has started to undertake.” Said High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini.

The European Union has announced a package of up to €150 million to support the revitalisation of the Lebanese economy as part of its longstanding commitment to the economic development of Lebanon.

This support could generate up to €1.5 billion loans for Lebanon until 2020, on condition that the country’s financial institutions identify and propose projects that are bankable and adopt relevant reforms. This package includes up to €50 million in grants funding that could be mobilised in each of the coming three years (2018-2020) to provide technical assistance and ensure a sufficient level of concessionality of loans.

 

Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations and Neighbourhood policy Johannes Hahn added: “The EU contribution is a signal of our support for the Government of Lebanon, whose tasks include now taking forward a road map of structural reforms to boost economic development in the country for the benefit of all.   We will support and accompany this effort.  Through the External Investment Plan, the EU is ready to extend up to €150 million in grants that could be used to generate up to €1.5 billion of concessional lending for investment in Lebanon over the next three years provided relevant projects are put forward and the necessary reforms are adopted”.

The package was announced today at the CEDRE conference in Paris, an international donor meeting in support of Lebanon’s economy. This will be made available in the framework of the European External Investment Plan (EIP), a comprehensive and ambitious EU plan which encourages investment in our partner countries for the promotion of inclusive growth, job creation and sustainable development.

Stakeholder meeting in February in Rome on Energy transition

Climate change and the resulting consequences are among the biggest challenges of our times. Mitigation and adaptation are increasingly becoming priorities for the local governments of the Lazio region. This is the reason why Anci Lazio, the Lazio Region Association of Cities and Municipalities, is actively promoting the transition to more sustainable practices, through the implementation of diverse EU funded projects under the European Regional Development Fund, such as EV Energy [1], Regio-Mob [2] and Local4Green[3]. These projects are showing that the transition is technically achievable and economically feasible. The last Stakeholder meeting that took place in Rome last January 12th, 2018, delved into the current status of Lazio’s policy environment, with a particular interest in initiatives aiming to expand the Lazio’s renewable energy production and use. The main goal of Anci Lazio was to raise awareness, understanding between stakeholders and finally to catalyse action[4].

From the analysis conducted by Anci Lazio the way energy needs in Lazio region are being met is changing rapidly. These changes are in response to new opportunities – such as renewable energy and smart technologies to reduce emissions and extend energy access. Just think of the development of the private sector in the field of electric car sharing and e-bike sharing in Rome and in the Lazio region, which implies new needs for different forms of energy supply.

The traditional centralized model of linear power generation and delivery through limited market or monopoly conditions is going to give way to a more diverse, dynamic and complex system with multiple actors and multi-layered energy, information and money flows. Such new more dynamic system is the so-called Distributed Energy Systems (DES) which can deliver significant economic, social and environmental co-benefits through better system resilience and efficiency, including lower cost grid balancing, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and affordable extension of grids to unconnected communities.

Energy infrastructure in Italy is ageing and requires significant investment to replace and repair. A crucial issue is, therefore, the need of new policy goals aimed at the modernization of the e-infrastructure networks together with the e-storage, as shown in the good practices identified by the partnership of the Ev Energy project.

What emerges from these good practices is that EU countries have set targets for electric vehicles (EVs) development in recent years and are  employing more and more a number of policies to achieve environmental objectives and alleviate the energy pressure, as EVs have prominent advantages for reducing CO2 emissions and alleviating the dependence on fossil fuel consumption in the transport sector.

In the same way, Lazio region needs more policies, such as financial incentives, technology support and charging infrastructure, to promote broader range use of EVs.

Apart from monetary incentives such as tax credits or direct subsidies, there exist other measures that could boost EV sales, or at least, could clear some obstacles out of the way that prevent potential EV buyers from a purchase. These include the improvement of the charging infrastructure, road-tax exemptions, and traffic regulations such as the free use of bus lanes or parking areas.

Therefore, policy measures are strongly and urgently needed in Lazio region to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and promote the acceptance of EVs.

 

To follow the EV Energy project:

https://www.interregeurope.eu/evenergy/

 

Claudio BORDI

 

[1] EV-ENERGY project runs from 1 January 2017 to 30 June 2021 under Interreg Europe Programme. The project aims to pave the way for a transition from fossil driven energy towards fair priced, decarbonised, clean and integrated resources and mobility systems in urban areas.

 

[2] REGIO-MOB project runs from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2020 under Interreg Europe Programme. REGIO-MOB partners expect to contribute to the consolidation of sustainable mobility in their regions by improving their policies performance as a result of a shared learning process. This improvement will be materialised through the development of regional mobility strategies with an holistic approach (environmental, economic & social factors). https://www.interregeurope.eu/regio-mob

 

[3] Local4Green project runs from 1 November 2016 to 30 April 2020 under MED Programme. It is an innovative project that supports local authorities-municipalities to define and implement innovative local fiscal policies in order to promote renewable energy sources (RES), in the public and private sector and households. https://www.local4green.interreg-med.eu

 

[4] The outcomes of the stakeholder meeting are used to create complex, dynamic, highly quantitative models which will be discussed with government institutions in order to develop an Action Plan for the Lazio Region that will be illustrated in a next article.

Cheap euro transfers everywhere in the Union and fairer currency conversions

“With today’s proposal we are granting citizens and businesses in non-euro area countries the same conditions as euro area residents when making cross-border payments in euro. All Europeans will be able to transfer money cross-border, in euro, at the same cost as they would pay for a domestic transaction. Today’s proposal will also require full transparency in currency conversion when consumers are paying by card in a country which does not have the same currency as their own.” Said Valdis Dombrovskis, Vice-President responsible for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union.

The European Commission is today proposing to make cross-border payments in euro cheaper across the entire EU. Under current rules, there is no difference for euro area residents or businesses if they carry out euro transactions in their own country or with another euro area Member State.

Today’s proposal aims to extend this benefit to people and businesses in non-euro countries. This will allow all consumers and businesses to fully reap the benefits of the Single Market when they send money, withdraw cash or pay abroad. All intra-EU cross-border payments in euro outside the euro area will now be priced the same – with small or zero fees – as domestic payments in the local official currency. Moreover, the Commission is today proposing to bring more transparency and competition to currency conversion services when consumers are buying goods or services in a different currency than their own.

Consumers and businesses in the euro area already benefit from very low fees for cross-border payments in euro, thanks to the introduction of the cross-border payments regulation in 2001. Under current rules, there is no difference for euro area residents or businesses if they carry out euro transactions in their own country or with another euro area Member State. Today’s proposal aims to extend this benefit to people and businesses in non-euro countries whenever they travel or pay abroad, putting an end to the high cost of intra-EU cross-border transactions in euro.

In particular, this proposal provides that fees charged for cross-border payments in euro are the same that would be charged for equivalent domestic payments in the local currency. This will bring down fees to a few euro or even cents. For example, a cross-border credit transfer in euro (EUR) from Bulgaria will be priced the same as a domestic Bulgarian lev (BGN) credit transfer. This is a major change, as fees for a simple credit transfer can be exorbitant in some non-euro area Member States (up to EUR 24 for a transfer of EUR 10!). Today’s hefty fees are an obstacle to the Single Market as they create barriers to cross-border activities of households (buying goods or services in another currency zone) and businesses, in particular SMEs. This creates a major gap between euro area residents who benefit from the single currency, and non-euro area residents who can only make cheap transactions within their own country.

Today’s proposal will also bring about transparency on payments that involve different Union currencies. At the moment, consumers are usually not informed or aware of the cost of a transaction that involves a currency conversion. The proposal will therefore require that consumers are fully informed of the cost of a currency conversion before they make such payment (e.g. with their card abroad, be it a cash withdrawal at an ATM or a card payment at a point of sale, or online). This means they will be able to compare the costs of different conversion options to make a fair choice. Recent findings show that consumers have been complaining about dynamic currency conversion practices – i.e. paying abroad in their home currency – and asking for their ban after having found that they were losing out in the majority of the cases studied. The lack of necessary information to make the best choice often results in consumers being unfairly led towards the more expensive currency conversion option. The European Banking Authority will be tasked with drafting the necessary Regulatory Technical Standard to implement this enhanced transparency.

The legislative proposal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and Council for adoption.

Fujitsu inaugurate Blockchain Innovation Center in Brussels

Fujitsu opened a new international Blockchain Innovation Center in Brussels on March 21, 2018. The center undertake research with external partners, collaborating on specific projects to explore the technology’s potential and limitations. Fujitsu’s aim is to develop the potential of blockchain beyond financial services as a new architecture for information systems and sectorsof all kinds.

Brussels was selected by Fujitsu for the geographical, political, technological and linguistic advantages it offers to international organizations considering applications of blockchain technology, making it an attractive testing-ground for novel co-creation initiatives. The centerhas an international remit. Alongside local projects in Belgium, Fujitsu’s co-creation model has resulted in a number of international projects, including projects in Germany, UK, the Netherlands and participation EU Horizon 2020 projects.

Blockchain represent a big opportunity in Europe. Many people think that Blockchain beeng solely about financial services bitcoin and cryptocurrency. It is not. I think Blockchian could be the world glue or oil for the world economy and the public sector. So that make sense to be in the heart of Europe in a country with a long track record of innovation like Belgium.” Explained Duncan Tait, CEO of Fujitsu Americas and EMEIA.

One particular area of expertise that Fujitsu plans to develop in the Blockchain Innovation Center is the use of blockchain for the design and implementation of Smart City services, focusing not only on technology, but also on important aspects of the cityof the future, such as sociological and demographic factors, societal organization, economic functioning and ecological challenges. The center will support and encourage research, development and innovation, both for Brussels and for other cities, throughthe funding of innovative projects by companies, research organizations and the non-commercial sector. Although the initial focus is on Smart Cities, the goal is to deliver scalable, secure, business-ready blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) solutions in a wide variety of industries.

The first blockchain R&D project being developed at the center is called “Blockchain as enabler of services in the context of Smart Cities”, and is being conducted in collaboration with Innoviris, the Brusselsinstitute for the encouragement of scientific research and innovation. The 24-month project is focused on establishing blockchain knowledge and expertise for the design and implementation of services in the context of Smart Cities, in areas such as citizen participation and elections, and the interaction between smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) and a multimodal supply chain. It consists of two main tracks: to build fundamental knowledge about the use of blockchain for Smart City applications, and then to apply this knowledge to specific use cases, with the aim of creating meaningful business solutions.

Mr Kris Peeters, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, commented that “Belgium is the ideal place to establish an international skills center such as the Fujitsu Blockchain Innovation Center. Not only it is located in the center of Europe, but it has also made the innovation the engine of its economy. In addition, our compatriots have excellent language skills, making them valuable contributors to multinational companies or international projects. It is important that all levels of government continue to work actively with innovative companies to support the overall economic fabric of Belgium.

Fujitsu has already identified more than ten projects and multiple European cities aiming to fulfill their ambitions to become Smart Cities have also expressed interest in collaborationwith Fujitsu. The Blockchain Innovation Center it is expected to lead to co-creation relationships with international and Belgian public bodies, customers, partners andthe Hyperledger Project (see Alternative Blockchain platformsbelow) to extend the technology beyond the current focus of proof of concepts into scalable, secure and business-ready DLT solutions.

What is blockchain?
Blockchain is essentially a database infrastructure, originally designed for the crypto-currency Bitcoin as an alternative to traditional government-guaranteed money and bank-controlled payments. What makes this technology special is the fact that the data is multiplied and stored across a network of nodes. This data distribution is the foundation and strength of blockchain technology, as it enables trusted information storage without a central controlling body (or trusted third party often referred to as an ‘authority’) by means of a network of computers (nodes). New transactions are sent to the blockchain, where they are encrypted before being sent to every node for validation and, once validated, stored in blockchain building blocks. Every new block is linked by cryptography (hash tree) to the previous block (which, in turn, is securely attached to its predecessor block). This makes the chain immutable: every change in one block entails change in every subsequent block on every node. Blockchain is said to provide trustworthiness like traditional ledgers. Therefore, it is usually referred to as Distribution Ledger Technology.

Watch the full interview with Duncan Tait, CEO of Fujitsu Americas and EMEIA:

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