Wendel Trio is director of Brussels-based environmental group Climate Action Network Europe. CAN activists have been closely involved in the ongoing discussions on the Energy Efficiency Directive.
At the end of the month, the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee will help decide whether or not Europe can realise the vast energy, financial and jobs potential of a fully effective Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). Under existing legislation, the EU will miss its 2020 20% energy savings target by more than half. The new EED represents the best chance to make up the difference.
After several months of intensive debate over the directive, with uncooperative member states engaged in short-term thinking and a record number of proposed amendments by MEPs, negotiations in Parliament have recently taken some positive steps forward.
With stakes so high, the Parliament really needs to make a strong bid for the EED by speaking with a united voice. The fact that MEPs from all political groups have been able to reach a compromise deal ahead of the ITRE vote on the 28th is therefore very encouraging.
True, it’s certainly a compromise: the renovation target for public buildings is weaker than the Commission proposed and some exemptions and flexibilities have been allowed, which will weaken the directive’s impact. But it does include the all-important binding targets, which would fall under an effort-sharing scenario among member states. The deal also calls for national trajectories marking out the pathway each country must take to reach their targets by 2020.
If binding targets are needed to give investor certainty and political focus, then strong measures are needed to help actually deliver the energy savings and address the issue of upfront financing.
These must include obligations for energy companies to provide energy services, deep building renovations with national roadmaps for getting there and national financing facilities to help get money to the right places. Crucially, the EED also provides a vital opportunity to “fix” the EU ETS and its failing carbon price.
The potential repercussions of missing this golden opportunity to create meaningful energy savings in Europe are many. The EU would become dangerously dependent on energy imports, with the Commission estimating over 90% dependency on foreign oil and 75% on gas by 2020. It would also fall behind in the growing global market for energy efficiency products and services.
Households could end up paying up to €1,000 per year more than they need to for their energy bills and millions of potential new green jobs would evaporate. Finally, the EU’s ability to meet its mid- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction targets would be seriously compromised.
Despite all the benefits that would come with a strong EED, some member states are still opposing the kinds of essential measures noted above. In fact, the text currently under discussion in the Council would represent a rollback on existing legislation, which still puts the EU on course to miss its 20% energy savings target by more than half.
That’s why it’s critical that ITRE votes for the strongest EED possible, with a binding 20% energy savings target, energy company obligations and deep building renovations. It’s a vote for Europe’s energy future.