Danish minister Ida Auken, who will chair environmental talks among the 27 EU ministers for the upcoming six months, is to present her “green priorities” today (19 December) in the Council.
Against the backdrop of stalled negotiations on binding energy efficiency measures, she said her message will be: “No more business as usual”.
The Danish still have the Energy Efficiency Directive as a top priority but they are less bullish on the timetable, an industry source told EurActiv.
Directive stalled by funding stalemate
Energy efficiency should be the main focus of all governments, because it has a positive impact on fuel-fired industries.
“Energy efficiency has to follow its economic potential,” the European Commission says in its 2050 roadmap, but this potential is locked because of the lack of political will, an EU official told EurActiv.
“It is too expensive” and member states cannot just impose much higher energy bills on their consumers, the source said. “That would be such an unpopular move, every politician in power is thinking short-term – three, maybe four years”.
There is one way to top up consumers’ bills, however, and that is by offering services. “If energy companies focused more on services, things could improve,” according to an EU source. “But then, what if there is no demand for the service? Consumers have other, more immediate priorities.”
Talks on the efficiency directive are stalled because there is a lack of agreement on how it will be funded. The MEP working on the proposal in the European Parliament, Claude Turmes, said that unless there is a way to fund it, "this directive is wishful thinking”.
Energy roadmap raises pressure
The Danish presidency might be too impatient to clinch a deal to wait for member states to find a compromise on the efficiency directive.
The directive would be binding, so it is a “hard piece of legislation that makes it more attractive to investors,” said Ulrich Bang, head of international affairs for the Danish Energy Association.
Even if for now there is little chance the Council will take a common position on the efficiency directive, the Energy Roadmap 2050, published on 15 December by the Commission, “will create the needed investment framework for investors,” Bang said.
That is not to say that they are taking their eyes off the proposed law, but that they will try to push talks through other means.
The Danish presidency will coordinate its efforts so that it works on the Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy Roadmap 2050 in parallel, EurActiv understands from several officials.
The roadmap is a political deal and easier to agree on, since it is not binding for member states.
“But the roadmap is not seen as important as the Energy Efficiency Directive, as it doesn’t make member states commit,” according to an EU official.
The Danes will try to reach ambitious conclusions, said Jørgen Knud Henningsen, senior advisor on energy and environment at the European Policy Centre.
“I hope they will keep the focus on achieving results. There is a tendency these days to do roadmaps, but these are not really policies,” Henningsen said. “The Commission was not established to make think-tank analyses, its role is to make proposals.”
It could be used, however, to push the piece of legislation that does matter, in other words create a momentum for the implementation of the efficiency directive, according to EU experts. “There is a chance that the Danish presidency will reach conclusions on this roadmap,” Ulrich Bang said.
“If you asked me a week ago, maybe I would have said that is impossible, but this changed when EU leaders called at the last summit for urgent agreement on these energy policies, ” Bang added.
“They will probably say they will have both as a priority and I think they will start a proper discussion on the roadmap,” Henningsen said. But that discussion does not exclude the Energy Efficiency Directive.
“The challenge is now for the Danish government to also think long-term, not to focus on the current mandate. The opposition has to agree to the long-term measures, too and I hope they will support them” ,he said.
The Danes could follow the model set by the Polish presidency, which did not intend to reach a binding deal on energy, but instead achieved a political agreement on the Energy Infrastructure Package, which had a side-effect on the energy efficiency proposal.
Hidden in the details
Efficiency plays an important role in all seven scenarios of the Energy Roadmap 2050 and the Energy Efficiency Directive is included in the text of the roadmap, an EU source told EurActiv.
Primary energy demand is expected to drop in a range of 16% to 20% by 2030 and 32% to 41% by 2050 as compared to peaks in 2005-2006. “This can only be achieved through energy savings and that puts the stakes high on the Energy Efficiency Directive debate,” said Samuel Flückiger, of the European Climate Foundation.
Flückiger described the Energy Roadmap 2050 as a continuation of the the EU's 2020 energy and climate change targets extended out further into the future. It will serve as a platform for discussion for the Energy Efficiency Directive. The latter will push for the implementation of the first, he says. “If the directive can deliver action on the ground, this increases the case for reaching the target set in the Energy Roadmap 2050”.
But the roadmap can only be achieved if 10 conditions are met, the first of which is “the swift adoption of the current proposal on energy efficiency”.