MEPs call for a binding energy efficiency target

On 9 November 2010 the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee reiterated its call for a binding EU target on energy saving, a demand also made by the Environment Committee in October. Voting on a report by Danish European People's Party member Bendt Bendtsen on the EU's Energy Efficiency Action Plan, they called for the EU "to adopt a binding target on energy efficiency of at least 20 per cent by 2020, and thereby advance the transition into a sustainable and green economy."

MEPs thus underlined their support for correcting what many hail as a major shortcoming of the EU's 2008 Climate and Energy Package: that unlike the targets on renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions, the target to reduce energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020 is only voluntary.

At current rates of progress the EU will miss the 20 per cent goal by about half, and its non-binding nature is regarded as a key factor in the EU's lacklustre performance. Of course, a binding target alone is no golden solution: tailored policies and programmes are needed to ensure that measures to reduce energy use are put in place. But the evidence to date is that without a greater degree of ownership and accountability for delivering energy savings, these measures are not being adequately adopted or implemented.

In addition to its call for a target, the ITRE Committee's report sends a strong message to EU heads of state and the European Commission, ahead of the forthcoming Extraordinary Energy Summit on 4 February, that the revised Energy Efficiency Action Plan must include all necessary measures to reach at least 20 per cent energy savings. The report contains recommendations to reduce energy wastage in buildings, transport, industry, the power sector and in the use of products and appliances. Measures include support for upfront financing, energy audits, education and training, efficiency standards and labels, market surveillance, and provisions to help catalyse the market in energy services, in which companies make money from helping customers to reduce their energy use.

The report will go to a vote of the full European Parliament in its December plenary session, and will be taken into account by the European Commission in the preparation of the revised Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which is expected in March 2011. This plan is eagerly awaited after repeated delays, to put meat on the bones of the frequently-made claims that energy efficiency and savings are the top priority in EU energy policy – as set out in the Energy 2020 Strategy published by the European Commission in October.

Climate Action Network Europe and other NGOs and business groups have been making repeated calls to strengthen the EU energy saving target as a key to achieving the New Europe 2020 Objectives, as per a letter to the heads of state in June 2010 (see box opposite).

Erika Hope

Erika Hope is Senior Climate Policy Officer at CAN Europe.

Open letter: EU energy saving target is key to achieving the New Europe 2020 objectives

As representatives of a range of business and professional associations and civil society interests, we are firmly convinced of the multi-faceted benefits of energy saving and consider that the EU must urgently step up its action in this regard.

We regret that the European Council did not pay more attention to energy saving. Meeting the EU's target to reduce our energy consumption by 20 per cent by 2020 is a win-win-win solution, which should be acknowledged as lying at the heart of the new 2020 objectives. It could generate a million new, local jobs, greatly reduce imported energy dependency and help Europe and its businesses take the lead in the global race for innovative and sustainable products. Yet at current rates, only half of the target will be achieved. The consequence of this failure will be an unnecessary additional cost to consumers of €78 billion annually at a time of severe budgetary constraints, an increase in the need for harsh and unpopular austerity measures and undermining the achievement of Europe's strategic goals.1

Practices and technologies to achieve the necessary savings are already available. We call on you to urgently take the steps necessary to see that these solutions are acted upon. This means taking on a higher level of commitment and accountability for delivering on the existing 20 per cent target.

Overcoming the barriers to energy saving requires a new impetus for targeted efficiency policies and programmes, alongside strengthened price signals. We consider that binding targets would help to establish this impetus, as has been demonstrated for other priority policy areas for example in the case of renewable energy and air quality. We note that the European Parliament again called for such a target in its Resolution on the Europe 2020 Strategy, voted this week.

Even taking into account the economic recession and policies adopted since the 2006 Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP), a three-fold increase in policy impact will be needed to achieve the 20 per cent target. The next twelve months represent a narrow window of opportunity: the forthcoming Energy Action Plan and review of the 2006 EEAP must set out the framework and new legislation to ensure that the savings gap is closed.

While many member states will have to reduce budget deficits in the coming years, a 20 per cent binding target for energy saving will help incentivise action in the most strategic areas, to the economic and environmental benefit of all Europeans. We hope that those benefits are at the forefront of European leaders' minds and that energy saving will be made the first order priority for Europe's economic recovery and new 'EU2020' Strategy.

1 Energy Savings 2020. Ecofys and Fraunhofer, September 2010.


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