Ministers back-pedal on EU energy efficiency

EU governments want to significantly dilute legislative proposals to boost energy efficiency in Europe, it emerged from a meeting of energy ministers in Brussels on Monday. The directive was tabled by the European Commission a year ago.

The draft directive on end-use efficiency seeks to increase the speed at which EU states improve energy efficiency and therefore curb greenhouse gas emissions. One way it proposes to achieve this end is by developing a market for energy services.

EU governments have already begun drafting detailed amendments to the proposal, but on Monday restricted themselves to a general policy debate, summarised by the EU presidency.

Governments support in principle the Commission's aim of saving an extra 1% of energy per year. However, in pursuit of a "flexible, unbureaucratic approach, which should reflect national circumstances", there is not support for this target to be mandatory or for there to be a uniform six-year period for achieving it.

Moreover, governments look set to add a rider to the national targets specifying that the costs of any measures adopted do not exceed their benefits, or, in another part of the directive, that costs to energy customers should be "reasonable".

The Commission proposed a higher savings target of 1.5% per year for the public sector. "It remains to be seen" whether this would be the right means, according to the presidency note. "Views are divided" on the proposal to oblige suppliers to offer energy services or energy audits.

In a related development, the European parliament's environment committee on Tuesday discussed a report on the same directive by MEP Eija-Riitta Anneli Korhola. The report echoes many of the themes raised by EU governments, stressing the need for greater flexibility and for more credit to be given for actions already taken by member states.

In the energy council, meanwhile, ministers also agreed a "general approach" on the directive to ensure security of electricity supply, which was put forward by the Commission following a series of blackouts. EU electricity association Eurelectric took the opportunity to release a discussion paper on the directive.

Published with permission from Environment Daily



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