Is Europe giving up on energy efficiency?

Virtually everybody agrees that energy efficiency is the number one energy priority for Europe, that it can provide growth, jobs, energy security and environmental benefits, and that it needs intervention by policymakers to really get going.

We do? News to me. I would have thought they need to get an affordable, reliable supply as a matter of critical urgency but what would I know?

So why is it so difficult for Brussels to agree on a legislative framework to drive energy efficiency? The EU’s 27 member states and the European Parliament are further apart than ever in negotiations on a new EU energy efficiency law. The major measure on which a deal is likely to centre is a requirement for energy retailers to deliver 1.5% energy savings per year from their customers. Sonja van Renssen reports from Brussels.

Energy efficiency is testing the Europeanization of energy policy in the EU and indeed broader European policies such as austerity measures. Member states, the European Commission and the European Parliament are negotiating a new EU energy efficiency directive tabled by the European Commission last summer, but so far with little result. The Commission and Parliament are asking member states to endorse and implement efficiency measures that will cost them time and money in the short-term for long-term gain, but the EU-27 are unwilling to go along.

This while Europe is on track to deliver only about half of a 20% saving in primary energy consumption by 2020 promised by European leaders in 2007. This 20% is equivalent to a saving of 368 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) or to limiting primary consumption in 2020 to 1474 mtoe. The final form of the EU energy efficiency directive currently under negotiation will to a large extent determine the fate of this promise – and the economic growth, job creation, energy security and environmental benefits that go with it.

It’s a strange situation, as virtually everyone is convinced of the importance of energy efficiency. As Bill Colton, Vice President for Corporate Strategic Planning at ExxonMobil put it at a seminar in Brussels on 8 May: “The greatest source of energy in the future will be learning how to use it more efficiently.” The Council of EU Ministers, which represents member states in Brussels, has been talking about how important energy efficiency is since March 2007. But these same governments cannot agree on EU policies to drive it forward.

European Energy Review

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