Battle Awaits over Binding Energy Efficiency Targets

JO LEINEN, chair of the European Parliament's environment committee, warned the European Union (EU) executive that it will have a fight over binding energy-efficiency targets.

Leinen told EurActiv: "The Parliament will strongly lobby for a binding target. We can criticise the executive of the EU and at the very end we can even sanction the Commission if there is a strong will."

EurActiv reports that Leinen, a German Socialist MEP, stated that the European Parliament would be reporting back to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso on energy efficiency as part of inter-institutional protocol.

"Since we have positioned ourselves more than once for a binding 2020 target, I think we will get a large majority this time again," he said.

As we have reported over the past couple of months, the 20 percent improvement in energy savings is the only EU sustainability 2020 target that is not compulsory, yet it is also the only one that is predicted not to be met. With savings of just 9-11 percent being forecast.

The other EU targets are for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 20 percent increase in the renewables share in the European energy mix, as measured against 1990 levels.

As 2010 drew to a close there was optimism that the European Commission would take action on binding energy efficiency targets, as President Barroso called for "concrete steps" to be taken to reach the EU's 20 percent goal.

All optimism vanished once EurActiv reported on a draft of the Commission's Energy Efficiency Action Plan which said that for the next two years, the Commission will only monitor the implementation of national energy efficiency targets.

"If, nevertheless, the 2013 review shows that the overall EU target is unlikely to be achieved," the document states, "then as a second stage the Commission will consider whether to propose legally binding national targets".

EU diplomats say that 20 states have so far submitted their energy efficiency National Reform Programmes ahead of an April deadline. However, the average reduction on 2020 figures involved is said to be just 14 percent.

Leinen complained: "It's disappointing that even after the energy summit in February, the Commission is still not learning the lesson."

The European Commission’s proposals were described by Leinen as "too hesitant and half-hearted, and we are losing too much time."

What is concerning Leinen is the delay in achieving or promoting a 20 percent reduction target for energy efficiency, as any action taken will not be established until in 2013 and probably only apply after 2014, meaning half of the most important decade for halting global warming would already have gone by then, he explained.  

EurActiv also reported that less contentious measures in the energy efficiency plan include the establishment of national energy saving obligation schemes across all member states, and the development of public procurement criteria that incorporate energy efficiency standards.

The European Commission will propose that public authorities be required to refurbish at least 3 percent of their buildings a year to bring them up to the standard of the top tenth of national building stock.

The measures also mean that from 2019, new buildings in all public bodies subject to EU directives will have to reach a "nearly-zero energy" performance level.

Picture by Steve Cadman

Thursday 3rd March 2011

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