Energy efficiency directive could save EU €50bn a year

An EU energy efficiency directive, approved by the European Parliament on Tuesday, will enforce mandatory energy saving measures that could save the region billions of euros per year.

The energy-saving measures include renovating public buildings, energy-saving schemes for utilities, and energy audits for all large firms, which could cut energy consumption by 20%, saving the EU €50bn per year.

Rapporteur Claude Turmes said: “This essential legislation is not only crucial for achieving our energy security and climate goals, it will also give a real boost to the economy and create jobs.

“Crucially, it will reduce the sizeable and growing cost of our dependence on energy imports – €488bn in 2011 or 3.9% of GDP – which is particularly stark in crisis-hit countries”.

The EU set itself the target of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020, from 1990 levels. However, the European Commission estimates that the EU will achieve only half the target improvement unless it takes specific measures.

The new directive will require member states to renovate 3% of the total floor area of heated or cooled buildings owned and occupied by their central government.

This will apply to buildings with a “total useful floor area” of more than 500 meters squared, and from July 2015, of more than 250 meters squared. However, member states will also be able to use alternative means to achieve equivalent energy savings.

Energy companies covered by the directive will have to achieve a cumulative end-use energy savings target by 2020, which, according to the European Parliament, will need to be equivalent to achieving new savings each year, from 2014 to 2020.

The savings required each year during this period will need to be 1.5% of annual energy sales to final customers, by volume, and averaged over the most recent three-year period before the directive takes effect.

However, sales of energy used in transport could be excluded and alternative ways to achieve equivalent energy savings would be permitted, provided that equivalence is maintained.

The directive also requires all larger enterprises to undergo an energy audit. These audits will need to start within three years of the directive’s entry into force and must be carried out every four years by qualified and accredited experts. The European Parliament said small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be excluded from this obligation.

Special provisions for establishing financing facilities for energy efficiency measures will be included in the directive, while member states will have to facilitate the establishment of these facilities or the use of existing ones.

The directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in EU’s Official Journal and member states will have 18 months to transpose it into their national laws. It will also replace two existing pieces of legislation – the Energy Savings Directive (ESD), and the Cogeneration Directive.

Leigh Stringer

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