Energy efficiency deal 'possible' by July 2012

  

The Energy Efficiency Directive is likely to become reality under the Danish EU Presidency, which ends on 1 July, according to a European Commission official who has drafted the bill. The announcement came amid warnings from green campaigners, who say the amended text is too weak.

"There is a political agreement to get a deal by the end of June, we have quite a lot of trialogue meetings left," said Krzysztof Gierulski, an official at the Commission's energy efficiency unit who was speaking on Tuesday (8 May) at a conference on smart meters organised by the European Smart Metering Industry Group(ESMIG).

Member states have taken a commitment to reduce their consumption of primary energy by 20% by 2020 – or 202 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe). The Energy Efficiency Directive is seen as the EU's main tool to achieve this target.

"There is a political agreement to get a deal by the end of June, we have quite a lot of trialogue meetings left," said Krzysztof Gierulski, an official at the Commission's energy efficiency unit who was speaking on Tuesday (8 May) at a conference on smart meters.

Member states have taken a commitment to reduce their consumption of primary energy by 20% by 2020 – or 202 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe). The Energy Efficiency Directive is seen as the EU's main tool to achieve this target.

But the Council of Ministers, which represents the 27 EU member states, has watered down the draft directive. As a result, the amended text is now estimated to reduce primary energy consumption by about only 58.1 Mtoe, the Commission said in a non-paper circulated at the beginning of the negotiations on the bill.

The first meeting between the European Parliament, Commission and Council took place on Tuesday evening (8 May) and all the important articles of the energy efficiency bill were tabled for discussion, EurActiv understands.

“Both sides are willing to compromise,” an EU source close to the discussions told EurActiv, referring to the Parliament and the Council, which have had very diverging views on the bill.

According to the Commission's non-paper, the Council's version of the text would represent only 38% of savings foreseen in the original draft. The Parliament's more ambitious version of the directive, on the other hand, represented 130% of the Commission's initial text.

Gierulski believes, however, that the meetings planned for May and June will be enough to wrap up the discussions.

"I believe it is possible to reach this political agreement. There will be work under the Cyprus presidency to make sure that all translation work is done," he said.

"We are moving towards political agreement on the most important issues," Gierulski added.

Bad compromise

The Danish presidency has to balance, in the next couple of months, discussions between its two aims: reaching an agreement in the next month and convincing member states to sign up to ambitious binding goals or measures.

“The final Directive must be capable of delivering the 20% target, and the current Council position is a long way from this,” said Erica Hope, from the Climate Action Network Europe, a green group. “It's still possible that this can be fixed before the end of June - we have seen positive signs from some member states”.

Hope said, however, that it was preferable for the bill to go to second reading to secure a more robust piece of legislation than to hasten the decision process, if member states are not willing to deliver enough.

Arianna Vitali of WWF agreed, saying that the Council’s current proposal is the “lowest common denominator” of member states’ positions. “I understand the urgency of the directive, but a bad compromise with a text with no ambition and that is not going to close the gap of 20% is not a good solution either. It preferable to take the time to negotiate and get a better deal,” Vitali said.

Whilst Vitali understands the importance of having the directive in place by the end of 2012, she thinks the current version of the text is a too high price to pay. Member states might shift positions under new governments, she said, citing the elections in France and a few other member states.

The “mood” of Brussels legislators is to get an agreement before the beginning of the Cyprus presidency, which takes over from the rotating EU presidency on 1 July 2012, with “less resources and experience” than Denmark on energy efficiency matters. She points to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, agreed in 2009 under the Swedish presidency, which was “good, but not good enough”.

“The purpose of each presidency is to reach an agreement within their mandate. It would be a pity if the Danes did the same and tried to have a deal at any cost,” Vitali said.

Positions: 

Brook Riley, of Friends of the Earth Europe, warned about watering down the bill’s Article 6, deemed the “backbone” of the directive, which requires power utilities to slash energy sales to household clients by 1.5% every year. Article 1 is expected to deliver 101 Mtoe out of the 151.5 Mtoe needed to meet the 20% energy savings target by 2020.

“The Council’s version has almost reached junk status,” Riley said. “It is not too late to stop and think,” he said, “the official negotiations on the final text are still in their early stages.”

“Governments repeatedly insist on the need to cut carbon emissions, save money, create jobs and reduce energy imports. A strong Energy Efficiency Directive is their best chance to do so”.

Timeline: 
  • 29 May, 5 June, 13 June: Next "trialogue" talks between the Council, Commission and Parliament (these exclude the regular non-political, technical meetings).
  • 1 July 2012: Danish presidency ends.
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