Not efficient enough

The European Commission do not believe that their own proposal for a new Energy Efficiency Directive will be enough to meet the 20 per cent energy savings target by 2020.

This is what the European Comisssion is aiming for.

There are no binding targets for member states in the European Commission's proposal for a new Energy Efficiency Directive that was presented on 22 June, and it will not be enough to reach the overall target of 20 per cent reduction in energy consumption by 2020 according to the commission's own impact assessment. The assessment presents two scenarios with indicative targets, one "pessimistic" in which 60 per cent of the savings needed to reach the overall target will be achieved, and one "optimistic" in which 80 per cent of the savings necessary will be achieved.

In its assessment the commission also notes that a majority of stakeholders and the European parliament are in favour of binding targets. The explanation of why the commission put forward a proposal that they themselves do not believe will be enough to achieve the 20 per cent target is found in this sentence from the impact assessment: "In strong contrast are, however, the views of the majority of member states who consider that the indicative approach to targets is to be kept, at least until its efficacy can be properly assessed."

Several environmental organisations have been critical. Brook Riley, from Friends of the Earth Europe, commented: "Frankly, the European Commission is fooling itself if it believes the energy efficiency directive will deliver the 20 per cent savings target. Its own internal analyses show that only a binding target will suffice. Instead of showing leadership the European Commission is giving in to industry scaremongering and pandering to the lack of understanding among national governments. This directive is set up to fail.

Progress towards the 20 per cent target will be reviewed in 2014. If the reductions are too slow according to the commission it may be appropriate to move on to binding targets. Since a new commission will be appointed in the same year, critics suggest that this is a way for the present commission to shift responsibility to their successors.

On a more practical level the commission puts forward a few proposals. One is to make systems based on white certificates mandatory in all member states. A white certificate is a documented energy reduction that might be tradable. A few countries: Italy, Denmark, France, Belgium (Flanders) and the United Kingdom already have systems like this. According to the proposal, energy utilities will be obliged to show energy saving credits of 1.5 per cent a year of their total energy sales. Key features of the obligation schemes should be harmonised at EU level, which could open up a common market for white certificates in the future.

Another proposal is that the stock of public buildings in each member state should be renovated for better energy efficiency at a pace of three per cent each year. Public buildings account for about 12 per cent of all the buildings in the EU. Today the average pace of renovation is about 1.5 per cent a year. Making criteria for energy efficiency a compulsory part of public procurement is a second way of pushing the public sector towards a leading role in energy efficiency.

Other features in the proposal include mandatory energy audits for large industries and rules to make metering and billing more transparent for consumers. The directive will replace two existing pieces of legislation, the Cogeneration Directive (CHP) from 2004 and the Energy Services Directive (ESD) from 2006, which both partly cover the scope of the new directive. The proposal will now go for a first reading in the European Parliament. Claude Turmes, a green MEP from Luxembourg, has been appointed as a rapporteur. According to the European Commission's own time plan they are aiming for a single reading and a final agreement at the end of 2012.

Kajsa Lindqvist

The European Commission's proposal on energy efficiency and impact assessment can be downloaded at:


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