“It’s true that the member states have been more eager to water down the [energy efficiency] rates than support them,” Martin Lidegaard, the Danish climate minister told EurActiv on the fringes of the London clean energy summit on Wednesday (25 April).
“Some of the articles in the directive – especially Article 6 – have been too watered down and, if we should have a chance to reach agreement with the European Parliament, we have to increase the ambition level of that article again,” he said.
The Danish presidency is overseeing a ‘trialogue’ process of negotiations between the EU's member states, the Commission and Parliament in a bid to reach agreement before its presidency comes to an end on 1 July.
EurActiv understands that the Danish presidency will be bringing forward a new text on the contentious article in negotiations on 4 May involving EU states' permanent missions to Brussels.
Brussels officials have long complained of ‘double-speak’ by EU states whose leaders wax lyrical on energy efficiency, while their civil servants gut measures that could advance it.
But the percolation of such language up the EU food chain suggests mounting frustration at the slow pace of progress in ongoing talks.
The Danish presidency thought that the continent's energy ministers had reached a consensus to definitively raise the level of efficiency ambitions at an informal council in Denmark on 19 April, EurActiv has learned.
But a week later, in a second round of negotiations in Brussels, “hardly any progress was made,” according to one EU source, who blamed inflexibility from the European Parliament.
MEPs' firm line
The European Parliament has taken a firm line on energy savings, proposing 18 compromise amendments to try and halt what it sees as back-sliding by EU governments over the directive’s cornerstones.
One of these, Article 6, would oblige power utilities to cut their year-on-year energy sales under an Energy End Use Savings Scheme.
“It is the main engine of the directive,” an EU diplomat said. “It is where you get most of the efficiency savings from, so its one of the more difficult issues.”
But there are others, including a 3% annual renovation target for public buildings – 12% of Europe’s entire housing stock - which environmentalists say has been whittled down and riddled with opt-outs and loopholes.
Lidegaard said that flexibility from both the Council and Parliament would be needed to cut a deal. “It takes two to tango and we need both parties to move,” he said.
A third trialogue is scheduled for 8 May, and three more will follow in the period to June 13.
After a Polish EU presidency that horrified many environmentalists, hopes had been high that climate policy breakthroughs might be possible on the Danish watch.
But Lidegaard moved quickly to dampen suggestions that other unresolved issues such as the nature and number of 2030 milestone targets could be resolved before July.
“I think we should be fair and say that we won’t be able to close that file during the Danish presidency,” he said.
“But I hope that we will be able to make some Council conclusions which will stress that we should build on energy efficiency, renewables and infrastructure.”
Energy efficiency is the only one of the EU’s climate targets for 2020 that is non-binding, and the only one that Brussels currently expects to miss.
Recent projections suggest that Europe is only on track for around 9-11% energy savings.