EU agrees watered-down energy efficiency target for 2030
EU lawmakers have agreed to make energy savings of 11.7% by 2030 mandatory in a bid to further the bloc’s climate and energy independence goals. Parliament had initially been aiming for a 14.5% target.
The EU’s energy efficiency directive revision was announced as part of the bloc’s climate package in 2021. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent energy crisis added to the urgency of negotiations on the policy that previously saw little attention from leaders.
“Deal! After 16 hours of negotiations, we agreed on a new Energy Efficiency Directive,” said Niels Fuglsang, a Danish centre-left lawmaker that negotiated the deal on behalf of the European Parliament. The new law would “mean real change for the benefit of the climate and disadvantage of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” he added.
The negotiations between parliament and the EU countries had been dragging on for months, concluded by a 16-hour marathon session of negotiations that concluded late last week.
At the heart of the agreement is the 11.7% target, which mandates that EU countries must reduce total energy consumption by about 1.5% per year.
“Saving energy is a key step to saving the planet,” said the European Commission’s Green Deal Chief, Frans Timmermans. This will be enforced by the Commission, empowered with controlling rights.
“Those who dawdle get homework,” said Jutta Paulus, a German Green who took part in the negotiations, adding that the 11.7% savings amounted to the energy consumption of Spain. The savings are set relative to 2020 calculations.
“We now need energy efficiency to become an even more systemic part of our society, and this revised directive helps us to do that,” Timmermans stressed.
Renovating public buildings will become strongly advised, as per the new law, something Paulus recently demanded in an op-ed for EURACTIV.
Yet, should national governments opt not to renovate government offices and museums, they may “use an alternative approach instead of renovating public buildings, as long as it leads to the same savings,” Fuglsang explained.
“More efficient use of energy is the best way to lower both energy bills and CO2,” said Pernille Weiss, a Danish centre-right lawmaker who also participated in the negotiations. Danish companies stand to benefit too, she added, given that companies like Denmark’s Danfoss supply many of the components that further energy efficiency.
One achievement of the new energy efficiency law is creating an official definition of energy poverty. “The new provisions on consumer empowerment and energy poverty will ensure that our clean energy transition is accessible to all, including the most vulnerable,” explained Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson.
The energy crisis had shone a harsh spotlight on the EU’s lack of a bloc-wide energy poverty framework, increasing the difficulty of aiding those who can not afford to heat their homes sufficiently.
Parliament’s failed ambition
The deal of 11.7% that was struck could be considered a negotiation win for the 27 EU countries, who backed a 9% target vis-à-vis Parliament’s 14.5% ambition.
While the European Commission initially proposed a 9% cut in energy consumption, Russia’s attack on Ukraine saw the EU-executive increase the target to 13%. The European Parliament, for its part, voted in September for a mandatory objective to reduce the EU’s energy consumption by 14.5%.
The negotiation outcome is thus much closer to national governments’ liking than Parliament’s. “Unfortunately, obstructionists in the EU member states have blocked higher ambitions,” Paulus explained.
According to lead Parliament negotiator Fuglsang, this was traded in for additional oversight. “We got a strong governance around the target, so member states will have to take it seriously,” he told EURACTIV.
Activists, however, were far from satisfied. “After long negotiations, the result of the EED revision is disappointing,” said Verena Bax, energy savings expert at Climate Action Network Europe.
“The energy efficiency target agreed by policymakers does not reflect the current fossil fuel crisis we are living through,” she added, warning that the law became a “paper tiger.”
According to the NGO expert, there may be a “risk that countries will not implement the target on the ground.”
Some activists were far from satisfied. “After long negotiations, the result of the EED revision is disappointing,” said Verena Bax, energy savings expert at Climate Action Network Europe.
“The energy efficiency target agreed by policymakers does not reflect the current fossil fuel crisis we are living through,” she added, warning that the law became a “paper tiger”, and there would be a “risk that countries will not implement the target on the ground”.
Perhaps the biggest point of critique is that EU countries may count savings from other sources as part of their efficiency obligations.
“Savings achieved under other EU laws (such as ETS) can be counted as part of the mandatory EED savings. Save once, count it twice: a twisted vision of efficiency indeed,” said Adeline Rochet, senior expert at the green think-tank E3G.
The German government, which had repeatedly fought for a higher level of ambition, welcomed the deal. “The successful conclusion of the trilogue on the EED revision is an important signal,” said German top public official Sven Giegold.
The NGO-industry alliance which had lobbied hardest had a mixed reaction.
“The revision of the EED is long-awaited and much needed,” said Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy.
“We regret that the national contributions are not binding, which could delay the implementation,” she added.
BusinessEurope, the lobby representing European industries, carefully stressed that “now it is important to stay in close dialogue with EU industry for the implementation of ambitious targets in revised EED.”
Nikolaus J Kurmayer, EurActiv.com
This article first appeared on EurActiv.com, an edie content partner
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