EU energy efficiency and services law agreed

EU governments have agreed to draw up a rolling series of energy efficiency action plans under a new law announced in the European parliament on Tuesday. MEP Mechtild Rothe, the parliament's rapporteur, said the directive would enable Europe to launch an energy savings offensive.

The end-use energy efficiency and energy services directive has been in the legislative pipeline since late 2003 when it was tabled by the European commission. It is an important EU climate change policy and has gained extra political momentum as world oil prices and concerns over energy security have risen.

Under the deal governments have successfully fended off parliamentary demands for the directive’s headline energy saving target to be more ambitious or legally binding. In return, they have accepted a requirement to issue regular national energy efficiency action plans.

EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs supported the directive’s stronger emphasis on process than goals. Europe has long experience with binding targets, he said. Sometimes they simply lead to legal infringement cases. I “really believe” the directive’s alternative approach will generate long-term policies backed by resources.

The directive’s headline target will be an indicative 9% cut in energy use over business-as-usual in the nine years 2008 to 2017. This equates exactly to the commission’s original proposal for 1% annual savings. At first reading the parliament called for a mandatory 11.5% saving over nine years.

Governments will have to prepare energy efficiency action plans by 30 June 2007, by 30 June 2011, and then by 30 June 2014. The first of these plans will have to include a national indicative energy savings target for 2011.

Critically, the European commission will be required to assess each plan and to propose further measures in case of insufficient progress – though it will not have powers to enforce their take-up. Each plan will “enter force” after this review, six months after the deadline for their submission.

Strengthening the commission’s coordinating role, the directive will require it to develop harmonised energy efficiency indicators and benchmarks. Governments will have to gradually integrate these into their action plans.

On other issues, governments fought off demands for the public sector to face a higher energy savings target. The directive will merely require public authorities to play an “exemplary role”. The final text of the directive has not yet been released. It must be formally ratified by the parliament and council before it can enter into force.

Republished with permission of Environment Daily

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