MEPs voted in favour of the proposals by German MEP Mechtild Rothe, on energy end-use efficiency and energy services. At present, the Commission draft directive proposes that Member States be forced to save an annual 1% of energy distributed or sold to final consumers.

However, the committee MEPs voted in favour of the report’s recommendations that more ambitious mandatory targets are set every three years and that these should be binding.

This would mean Member States should reach 3% savings over the period 2006 – 2009, rising to 4% for the period 2009 – 2012 and to 4.5% for 2012 – 2015.

The Committee also believed the Commission should have the option of differentiated binding national targets on the basis of energy efficiency gains made by the Member States and the potential for such gains.

The report also includes the idea of energy efficiency being made one of the criteria for awarding public service contracts.

The proposals are unlikely to be well received by the EU Council of Ministers who were unhappy with the 1% mandatory target, preferring far less rigid national indicative targets.

The Commission has estimated that a 1% saving in energy per year could halve CO2 emissions and enable the EU to meet Kyoto commitments by 2008 – 2012.

Predictably, the report was criticized by European business association Eurochambres, which claimed mandatory targets would stifle growth and lead to more bureaucracy, and praised by the insulation industry association Eurima who described it as a first step towards a more rational use of energy.

By David Hopkins

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