Bridging the Gap: the EU Energy Efficiency Directive

On 15 June, negotiators from the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union struck a deal on the proposed Energy Efficiency Directive. This is the first time that Member States have agreed binding policy measures for dealing with energy efficiency in buildings, in an initiative meant to complement existing agreements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the supply of renewable energy. The combined energy and climate change proposals – 20 per cent by 2020 – are meant to reduce the EU’s energy import dependency, at the same time as improving Europe’s competitiveness and sustainability credentials. Given the enormous benefits on offer– reducing the EU’s energy bill by about €200 billion annually by 2020; creating up to two million new jobs by 2020 – how did the negotiations fare?

In all honesty, little better than the binding legislation it was meant to replace. The negotiations started pretty fraught, with a record number of parliamentary amendments and a significant watering-down by the United Kingdom. Eighteen compromise amendments were eventually agreed, but the persistent weakening of ambition by Member States continued unabated, resulting in only slight improvements to existing directives relating to end-use efficiency and energy cogeneration. Detailed accounts and analysis can be found in EurActiv and European Voice, but as acknowledged by Claude Turmes, the Green MEP leading the negotiations on behalf of the European Parliament, “the agreement can only be said to offer 15+ per cent primary energy savings by 2020”.

It’s true that, an extra two per cent are possible through tougher emissions standards in cars and vans, another one per cent from Ecodesign benchmarks, as well as an (unknown) additional amount from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. But this is all highly dependent upon what options the Commission brings forward in its proposals later this year, and which are again subject to further deliberation by Member States.

Despite varying political assertions of success, a significant gap remains between the agreed savings and what is possible by 2020. At the moment, the hope is Member States over-deliver on their targets, particularly with respect to their building renovation roadmaps (which the Parliament was able to retain throughout the negotiations), along with a strengthening of the directive when elements of it are reviewed in 2014 and 2016.

François Hollande. CC BY-NC Damien Roué

If there is anything hopeful to be taken from the agreement, it is that France, with the recent election of François Hollande, has prioritised energy efficiency ahead of other priorities. In a reflection of Hollande’s campaign slogan: le changement c’est maintenant– the time for change is now, it is QCEA’s sincere hope that unwarranted asceticism has reached its nadir and a seriously ambitious and progressive spirit transforms ongoing determinations. For, to not push for consistent and constructive clean-energy policies is another way of asking for higher emissions, higher energy import bills, and higher energy insecurity.

About Paul Parrish

Paul was the Policy and Advocacy Officer of the Sustainable Energy Security programme between November 2010 and November 2012.

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  1. Pingback: New Beginnings at QCEA | qceablog

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