The Commission states that the proposed target goes beyond the 25% energy savings target which would be required to achieve a 40% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030.

EU Energy Commission Vice President Günther H. Oettinger said: “Our aim is to give the right signal to the market and encourage further investments in energy saving technologies to the benefit of businesses, consumers and the environment.”

The new target is said to provide opportunities for European businesses and increase Europe’s energy security. The Commission stated that the framework on energy efficiency struck ‘the right balance’ between benefits and costs.

The proposal comes in the midst of the continuing crisis in Ukraine which threatens Europe’s energy security.

Regressive approach

The new target has been criticised by environmental groups and energy campaigners as not going far enough to solve Europe’s energy crisis with a regressive, cost-focused, approach.

President of the European Alliance to Save Energy Monica Frassoni said: “The European Commission appears to have lost credibility.

“The proposal is clearly not based on a real scientific assessment and a serious cost-benefit analysis, otherwise a target between 35% and 40% would have been proposed.

“The European Commission has clearly ignored the emphasis of the International Energy Agency on energy efficiency as Europe’s first fuel. Instead it appears to have taken the route of least resistance in proposing a more regressive approach which focuses on the costs and not the multiple collective benefits of a common EU wide energy efficiency framework.”

Push for more

Environmental campaigners from Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace criticised the new target. According to Friends of the Earth Europe, the decision to recommend a 30% target ignores the European Commission’s own analysis, which shows a higher target of 40% for 2030 would bring greater environmental and economic benefits. The 40% model sees gas imports fall by 40%, rather than 22% under the current proposals.

It has called on the European Parliament, which in January voted for a 40% energy reduction target, to push for more ambitious measures.

Friends of the Earth Europe climate and energy campaigner Brook Riley said: “Europe is crying out for a way to reduce dependence on imported energy. The easiest, safest way to do this is to use less energy. Instead we’ve got a bafflingly weak target; it’s now up to the European Council and Parliament to push for more.”

In June, Ministers from Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Luxembourg wrote a letter to the Commission asking for a more ambitious binding energy efficiency target. The current proposal does not specify on whether the target will be binding or not.

The UK’s position was criticised by Greenpeace, with political director Ruth Davis saying: “The UK government presented itself as a driving force beyond the emergency plan to get the EU off energy imports, so it’s hard to grasp why they are not pushing for the one policy that can at one stroke boost our energy security, lower bills, and cut carbon emissions. It’s a no-brainer and ministers should get fully behind it.”

The Commission’s statement also explored the positive impacts of the proposed energy efficiency targets, such as new opportunities for European businesses. The proposal states that for every 1% of energy savings EU gas imports are expected to fall by 2.6%.

The announcement stated that while Europe was close to meeting its 2020 target of a 20% energy reduction more work was needed to meet the target, with current figures estimating an 18-19% reduction. 

Stimulate investment

The announcement was, however, met with support from some investment groups. The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which represents 90 European investors worth €7.5tn, welcomed the decision.

Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change chief Executive Stephanie Pfeifer said: “The Communication published today provides a positive signal to investors and demonstrates that the Commission recognises the key role of energy efficiency in the 2030 climate and energy framework. Improved energy efficiency will play a fundamental role in helping Europe achieve its climate, energy security and competitiveness goals.

“We now urge the Council to come to an agreement on the 2030 climate and energy framework at its meeting in October. Agreement is critical to help establish a more certain, long-term policy environment which will stimulate investment in low carbon solutions and energy efficiency.”

Matt Field

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