Ministers back crucial energy efficiency package

EU energy ministers have given their backing to a Commission proposal to boost energy efficiency in European buildings by setting up a standard system for maximising energy efficiency.

Loyola de Palacio, who heads the Directorate for Transport and Energy at the European Commission, said the directive, agreed at a European Energy Council meeting on Friday, was “an essential, if often under-rated” move.

“More than 40% of energy consumption is in the buildings sector, most of which is for heating, hot water, cooling and lighting,” she explained. “There is a cost-effective savings potential of some 22% of this consumption.”

The draft directive lays out clear guidelines for reducing growth in energy use in buildings, but leaves the concrete application to individual nations.

However, the ministers agreed to drop the Commission’s scheme for mandatory targets on the amount of fuel member states should get from renewable agricultural sources. The targets, 2% of transport fuel by 2005 and 5.75% by 2010, remain but they are optional guidelines rather than enforceable. Only three countries, Austria, Spain and Italy, argued for mandatory targets.

However, the weakening of the package will little anger environmentalists, many of whom have argued that the environmental benefits of biofuels are debateable. Frazier Goodwin of environmental campaigning organisation Transport and Energy said the ‘biofuels’ package was designed more to subsidise farmers than improve the environment.

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