Despite previous disagreements over the directive, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee voted 31-22 to start inter-institutional negotiations as soon as possible.
After what Claude Turmes, the Luxembourg MEP who crafted the directive, called "six months of intensive, evening and even weekend work", the bill is to face tough talks with member states, which are asking for more flexibility and a number of country-specific considerations.
“Today's vote provides a strong mandate for the European Parliament in its negotiations with the Council on the final legislation," Turmes said. "We have lost enough time: it is time for EU governments to start delivering real energy savings and a robust energy efficiency directive will be crucial to this end."
Accelerating negotiations after the vote gives the Danish presidency the chance to save some time and reach an agreement on the directive, even if not a formal signature, by the end of its mandate on 1 July – a priority in its agenda.
A large part of the compromise amendments to the bill were adopted by MEPs, providing the text that will now enter negotiations with the Council.
To succeed, the directive will have to satisfy national governments that are less supportive of binding efficiency legislation.
“The key to this directive has to be flexibility. Measures should encourage and enable genuine savings to be made, rather than committing national governments to arbitrary paper targets and reams of extra bureaucracy,” said British MEP Vicky Ford, chief negotiator on the energy efficiency bill for the European Conservatives and Reformist Group.
Negotiations to come
The directive agreed by MEPs will not change much on its top lines, Danish MEP Bendt Bendtsen (European People's Party) said. “All the groups agree not to touch the compromises.”
The vote sends a strong message to the Council, he said. “We now have a firm position which will not change. Both the left and the right has given up some ground and loosened their initial positions a bit, as everyone sees the necessity of reaching an agreement.”
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger did not comment on the talks ahead, but said that the committee vote paves the way for the EU’s 2020 goals. "This is an important vote for our proposal, as the Committee backs our choice of main drivers for saving energy. With the text voted today, we would be able to achieve the main goal of the directive - namely to save 20% of energy in 2020," Oettinger said.
The committee voted to make an energy saving target of 20% by 2020 binding. In exchange, member states would have flexibility over adopting a number of binding measures to implement the overall target.
EU countries will have to set out a roadmap for achieving energy savings of 80% in the buildings sector by 2050, with a binding deep renovation rate of 2.5% per year for public buildings, Turmes said.
Amonsgst the other measures adopted by the committee were requirements for energy companies to deliver 1.5% in annual energy savings, binding financial instruments and better consumer information.