Inspiring Europe to an energy efficient future

Energy efficiency in Europe has gained industry momentum and the newly adopted Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) has offered plenty of corporate opportunity. But Member States must inspire business to get on board and realise the benefits available, says Marta Toporek.

The EED aims to promote energy efficiency throughout the European Union to ensure it achieves its 2020 targets, but full support from Member States is required if the directive is to have an impact on energy consumption over the next eight years, says Toporek.

“One of the most important obligations in the EED is for Member States to establish energy efficiency schemes, creating the opportunity for energy distributors and/or retail energy sales companies to change their business model,” she says.

Despite the directives good intentions, the lack of awareness around some of the details of the EED are restricting businesses from encompassing the potential benefits available.

“It aims to ensure energy distributors and/or retail energy sales companies make annual savings of 1.5%. However, it also allows Member States to lower this amount by up to 25%,” says Toporek.

In addition, Member States have flexibility regarding how the calculated quantity of new savings is phased over the period. On top of that, Member States may also opt for other policy measures, offering an alternative to setting up an energy efficiency obligation scheme.

“Therefore, it is quite uncertain what this provision will bring,” says Toporek.

“The various options open to Member States means it is difficult to predict how much energy savings this measure will ultimately offer”.

“All this shows is that the EED brings very interesting business opportunities which, everybody must agree, are very welcome in times of crisis,” she adds.

According to the European Parliament, shifting to a more energy-efficient economy should accelerate the spread of innovative technological solutions, improve the competitiveness of industry in the Union, boost economic growth and create high quality jobs in several sectors related to energy efficiency.

However, the success of the EED comes down to the ambitions of individual Member States, says Toporek.

“Member States’ economies; what is important is to grab all the possibilities the EED offers and fully exploit its potential”.

“Another important point is that the EED establishes minimum requirements and Member States may go beyond these”.

Toporek mentioned the importance of national building stock renovation strategies required under the EED.

She added that Member States have flexibility regarding their legal form, management and content details.

If designed robustly at national level Member States could, many believe, give the certainty companies need for long-term planning and investment.

“A legally binding and enforceable document which clearly describes obligations and responsibilities would definitely offer enterprises interesting business opportunities,” says Toporek.

Energy audits are also a significant focus of the EED, which requires major companies to undergo rigorous audits and encourages SME’s to do the same.

The European Parliament said in October: “Energy audits should be mandatory and regular for large enterprises, as energy savings can be significant. Energy audits should also take into account relevant European or International Standards”.

Backing the proposal, Toporek said: “Four-yearly energy audits, obligatory for big businesses and encouraged for SMEs, are a very good example of an obligation which may seem troublesome at first, as audits cost money, but in the end can benefit company budgets by lowering running costs”.

Marta Toporek is a climate and energy lawyer for ClientEarth, an organisation of activist environmental lawyers

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