Excerpts from a Diary of the EU Sustainable Energy Week

This year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (11-15th April 2011), organized by the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission, was focused on energy efficiency. This is in recognition of the fact that despite energy efficiency (or rather, energy savings) being the area where we can make the biggest contributions to reducing our climate emissions and energy dependency, it is also the area where we’re making the least progress.

A Sustainable Energy Week Banner on the side of the European Commission's Berlaymont building, Brussels. Image: Rachel Tansey CC.

With over 150 events in Brussels, QCEA could not be present at all of them, but the following are excerpts from a diary of some of the the events QCEA did attend. To learn more about the context of the discussions and full summaries of the events QCEA attended, read the full Diary of the EU Sustainable Energy Week.

Monday 11th April

 “Mainstreaming energy efficiency: practical routes to saving energy”

What stuck in my mind: MEP Fiona Hall referred to the merits of an “old-fashioned” belief in legislation. People are busy trying to get along with their lives, and cannot face making momentous decisions every time they enter a shop, but if there are only A++ (the highest energy efficiency rating) products on the shelves, then they will buy energy efficient products. That is why, Hall argued, we must legislate.

Tuesday 12th April

 “Encouraging emission reduction through voluntary Climate Agreements”

A representative from Uppsala, Sweden, talks about their preparations for Voluntary Climate Agreements with local businesses. Image: Rachel Tansey CC.

What stuck in my mind: Providing a structured way for specific target groups to reduce unnecessary emissions and energy use, aims to put into practice the idea that “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.”

“Inspiring behavioural change to create a lower carbon economy”

What stuck in my mind: The Eco-Calendar initiative in Niepolomice, Poland, distributed a strategy manual in the form of a calendar to all inhabitants, containing tips on how to be energy efficient, reduce CO2, use renewables, etc. The message of the Eco-Calendar is that each of us has a great potential to improve energy efficiency and make savings in our daily lives.

Representatives from Niepolomice, Poland, and Uppsala, Sweden, evaluate their tactics to get energy saving and sustainable living tips to their inhabitants. Image: Rachel Tansey CC.

Wednesday 13th April

“Energy Efficient Buildings Public-Private Partnerships: long term roadmap, synergies and potential in addressing societal challenges”

Inside the Commission's Charlemagne building, DG Research summarises the framework of public private partnerships (PPPs) for research into Energy Efficient Buildings. Image: Rachel Tansey CC.

What stuck in my mind: After much discussion of technological solutions and business models, the round table ended on the note that, although unpopular, using less energy – saving energy – is key. It was cautioned that the use of ICT systems in construction, intelligent energy systems etc. also has an energy and resource cost – we must be careful the balance sheet goes the right way and does not end up offsetting energy savings.

“Energy Efficiency: How to convince property owners to renovate?”

Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger talks to the International Union of Property Owners (UIPI) about energy efficient buildings, reassuring them that "bans", in his view, are not the way forward, "market-based measures" are. Image: Rachel Tansey CC.

What stuck in my mind: The concern of property owners was how to avoid landlords paying for energy efficiency improvements to buildings when it is the tenants who benefit from lower energy bills i.e. the split incentive. But surely tenants, who are by and large poorer than landlords, should not therefore have to pay to improve the fabric of someone else’s building? There was a lack of differentiation between types of landlord – the small, not especially well-off landlords, like many of Europe’s landlords who are over-60s letting 1 or 2 flats, and the large, corporate landlords, who let hundreds of properties. Where the latter’s profits are large, they should not have tenants paying for improvements to their properties.

Thursday 14th April

“The road to a sustainable EU: What priorities for climate policy?”

Jos Delbeke, Director General for Climate Action in the European Commission, gives a Sixty Minute Briefing for the European Policy Centre. Image: Rachel Tansey CC.

What stuck in my mind: The concern was raised that the EU’s 20% CO2 reduction by 2020 target is extremely unambitious, given that we’re already almost at it (we’re currently between 16-18%). Jos Delbeke, Director-General for Climate Action, reminded the audience that this was a result of the recession, and that as we recover, so industry says, we’ll need to emit more. This is especially the case regarding Europe’s competitive edge in energy intensive products, because the US, for example, has no such carbon-related constraints. This reference to a) emissions increasing with economic growth, and b) the race to the bottom in unambitious climate goals being pulled along, horse by cart, by the indomitable neo-liberal logic of ‘competitive advantage’, reminded me of the inability of our political class to really recognize that the biggest competitive disadvantage for our species is changing the climatic preconditions for our existence and flourishing.

About Rachel Tansey

Rachel was a QCEA Programme Assistant on Sustainable Energy Security between November 2010 and November 2011.

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