Poland, which currently holds the six-month rotating EU presidency, presented a progress report on the draft energy efficiency directive at a meeting of the Energy Council on Thursday (24 November).
The report included amendments pushed by member states requiring more “flexibility” in achieving the proposed targets.
Most EU member states “are not convinced of the approach and request flexibility to design schemes best suited for their circumstances,” the Polish presidency said, after holding consultations with all national delegations.
Member states were invited to present their positions but no extensive discussion was held at the meeting as views remain far apart. “If there will be a discussion, then it will be at a political level,” Polish presidency sources told EurActiv.
Moves towards a political compromise are expected to start only as of 2012. “We expect the talks with the European Parliament to start during the Danish presidency,” a Polish presidency source said.
The progress report centred around the three targets contained in the draft energy efficiency directive:
- A national obligation for energy companies to reduce consumption among "final consumers" by 1.5% annually;
- A 3% refurbishment target for public buildings;
- Setting up a "national heating and cooling plan" to promote heat and power co-generation as well as renewable energy in heating and cooling.
The first target is considered by experts as the one which "can really make member states take concrete action”.
Dutch reject binding target for energy companies
The flexibility changes sought by member states include replacing the cut-off 1.5% annual savings target with a gradual increase in objectives as well as the possibility to extend the time-period at national level in order to adjust to local circumstances.
But it was also abundantly clear that most do not want “a binding sectoral target,” EurActiv was told. “It is a complex issue, in which all member states have a high interest,” an EU source said.
Germany, backed by The Netherlands, is hostile to the directive’s flagship 1.5% savings target for energy companies. The Hague even proposed a deletion of this particular article, it emerged earlier this month.
Meanwhile, other countries such as Italy, France and Denmark, which already have supplier-side obligations, support the proposed scheme if some changes are introduced.
Pascal Dupuis, head of the climate and energy efficiency department at the French Ministry of Ecology, said France supports the idea “99%”. Speaking at a conference organised earlier this month by EurActiv France, Dupuis claimed the directive includes good ideas but says it is “too prescriptive at times”.
More flexibility sought
And while countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Belgium, Greece and a few others were broadly positive about the directive, the process remains stalled by countries which “still need to resolve internal fights between environment and economic ministers,” an EU analyst said.
“What countries need to have is a common system, but the problem is that they want their national system and think that by doing more they will move closer to a binding target that they will be monitored on and forced to implement against in all circumstances," said Sanjeev Kumar, a consultant for the Brussels branch of E3G, an environmental NGO.
"That is what wanting to be flexible means,” he told EurActiv. "The Commission could not have been bolder than this,” he added, referring to the proposed directive, “considering it had to concentrate all efforts in a very concise direction, that of the 1.5% savings target”.
Proponents of greater energy savings saw the lack of progress in EU talks as an indication that member states were trying to derail the process and possibly kill the initiative.
Buildings' target set for amendments
One proposal likely to be amended is the 3% refurbishment target for all public buildings, with several delegations saying such obligations should be backed by additional sources of funding.
Britain for instance complained that the building renovation proposals were likely to result in “considerable extra expenditure for member states on works which are not always cost-effective”.
Buildings account for 40% of Europe’s primary energy consumption and 36% of its CO2 emissions. Experts consider that in terms of energy savings, the 3% target proposed in the energy efficiency directive is already very limited and that consumers’ bills will not see a reduction unless the target applies to all buildings.