Policies Supporting Sustainable Energy Use in SMEs

On 24 June 2021, Interreg Europe’s Policy Learning Platform held an online workshop on Championing sustainable energy in SMEs: public policies to help SMEs save energy and produce renewable energy. The event was organized in collaboration with the RESINDUSTRY, SME POWER, and SMEPlus projects. (Interreg Europe 2021.)

Altogether 51 people participated at the three-hour workshop to hear about related policy framework, policy instruments, and concrete good practices identified in the above-mentioned projects (Interreg Europe 2021).

SMEs & Energy Policy Context

SMEs (small and medium enterprises) are the backbone of the economy. Around 13% of the global total energy demand is used in SMEs, therefore, related policies are targeted directly to SMEs. Sustainable energy use in SMEs, including the application of renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency performance, can not only improve the environment and fight climate change but can save companies’ money and thus boost their competitiveness. (Hunkin 2021.)

SMEs face many barriers in the energy transition, including a lack of resources and expertise. Therefore, the EU’s energy framework has made specific provisions targeting SMEs by requiring the member states to set up instruments for energy audits in SMEs (Article 8, Energy Efficiency Directive) and frameworks supporting renewable energy communities and self-consumption (Renewable Energy Directive). (Hunkin 2021.)

A woman by a table with a globe and windmill model in hands.
Picture 1. The SME’s energy transition is essential for meeting the carbon reduction targets. (Podrez 2021).

The Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) affects SMEs the most from the existing energy policy framework. The 2018 EED includes an updated 2030 target of a 32,5% improvement in efficiency. (Directive 2012/27/EU.) This target may be revised in 2023 under the ‘Fit for 55% package’ of the European Green Deal. The ‘Fit for 55 package’ updates the EU’s 2030 climate and energy laws to reflect the 55% net emissions reduction target compared to 1990 levels. (European Parliament 2021; Hunkin 2021.)

The recast Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) acknowledged SMEs as the key building blocks of the sustainable energy transition. Therefore, the EU countries are obliged to establish support schemes and remove barriers to foster the uptake of renewables by companies and citizens. The directive sets rules to achieve at least the 32% renewables target (to replace 32% of the total energy needs with renewables) by 2030 in the EU. RED II is currently being examined to further contribute to climate-neutral Europe by 2050 under the Green Deal. The draft is aiming for approximately a 40% share of renewables. (Directive (EU) 2018/2001; European Commission 2021; Hunkin 2021.)

Regional policymakers play a key role in tailoring the European framework and supporting instruments on the local or regional level. In Finland, two projects closely cooperate on identifying sustainable energy possibilities in enterprises and how public authorities could support SMEs in their implementation. RESINDUSTRY – Policies for Renewable Energy Sources in Industry is managed by LAB University of Applied Sciences and SME POWER – SMEs Powering a Low Carbon Future by Heinola city.


Katerina Medkova works as an RDI specialist at LAB University of Applied Sciences and acts as a Project & Communication Manager in the RESINDUSTRY project.


Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC. EUR-lex. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=celex%3A32012L0027

Directive (EU) 2018/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources. EUR-lex. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02018L2001-20181221

European Commission. 2021. Renewable energy directive. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/topics/renewable-energy/renewable-energy-directive/overview_en

European Parliament. 2021. Legislative Train Schedule States Navigation Menu. Fit for 55 Package Under the European Green Deal. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/legislative-train/theme-a-european-green-deal/package-fit-for-55

Hunkin, S. 2021. Policy Framework. e-workshop: Championing sustainable energy in SMEs. 24.6.2021. Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxPUNxGqzbI&t=680s


Link 1. Interreg Europe. 2021a. Project Summary. RESINDUSTRY. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/resindustry/

Link 2. Interreg Europe. 2021b. Project Summary. SME POWER. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://www.interregeurope.eu/smepower/


Picture 1. Podrez, A. 2021. 6990475. Pexels. [Cited 5 July 2021]. Available at: https://www.pexels.com/fi-fi/kuva/taivas-mies-henkilo-rakennus-6990475/