Energy efficiency first principle in the regional governance
The Energy Efficiency First (E1st) principle balances demand and supply options, including energy efficiency at the supply side, in order to prioritise the least-expensive investments for the energy system from a whole society's point of view. It is an organising principle in which assessing the potential for energy savings and demand response becomes the first step in any energy-related decision. Up to now, the E1st principle has been discussed to some extent in the National Energy and Climate Plans; however, when it comes to the regional and local governance levels, this principle is not yet explicit in the public debate. Regional authorities elaborate own development plans that include decisions on energy investments in both supply and demand sectors.This paper carries out an analysis in four EU regional authorities testing how the E1ST principle can be applied in their regional planning processes. The primary energy planning elements in their cases are to decide on the types of investments (although regions partly do not invest directly in energy infrastructures) through setting up regional support schemes (such as grant schemes for building renovation, training programmes for building professionals and others) and to define the least-cost resource mix in all key policy areas involved (such as power, gas and heating sectors, and balancing energy demand and supply side investments). The allocation of the regional budget to these support schemes is also linked to the design of the Regional Operational Programs, where the E1st principle can be put in place. The paper describes a decision support process for the four regions to operationalize the E1st principle in practice, analysing regional planning cycles and procedures, taking into account multilevel governance aspects and relevant inputs from regional stakeholders.