A thousand cities back 2030 energy efficiency target


EXCLUSIVE / An alliance representing more than a thousand European cities wrote to Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, yesterday (17 February) calling for binding 2030 targets of 40% for energy efficiency, and 30% for renewable energy, in line with a European Parliament proposal.

The European Commission has adopted a milder climate package, setting the scene for a potential clash of EU pillars

The president of the Energy Cities group, which authored the written protest, said that making efficiency a “key priority” could create jobs, send a signal to investors and more.

“I personally sense a great deal of disillusionment among my citizens towards European politics,” Eckart Würzner, who is also the Mayor of Heidelberg told EurActiv. “An ambitious EU climate and energy policy that tackled economic growth, fuel poverty and quality of life issues would ultimately contribute to restoring trust in European institutions.”

The Energy Cities letter, which EurActiv has seen, backs the Commission’s proposed 40% cut in greenhouse gas emissions but chides the overall package for only suggesting a non-binding 27% target for renewables, and offering no energy savings measures at all.

This “lacks the necessary ambition to meet Europe’s climate and energy commitments for 2050 [and] fails to seize the opportunity to shift to a new energy paradigm based on dentralised low-carbon production and lower energy use,” the letter says.

New figures from Eurostat released yesterday say that energy consumption in the EU fell by 8% between 2006 and 2012, but the continent remains dependent on fossil fuel imports for 53% of its energy needs, and is off-course to meet its energy saving goals for 2020. In this context, consultation around the 2030 targets is seen as crucial.

The Commission’s proposed new energy framework “omits to fully embark local stakeholders that are committed, under the direction of their political leaders, to the Covenant of Mayors,” the letter to Van Rompuy says.  

Energy Cities bills itself as ‘the European association of local authorities in energy transition’ while the Covenant of Mayors unites 5,499 city chiefs from London and Paris to small villages who all believe that “the fight against climate change will be won or lost in urban areas.”

City Limits

According to a recent analysis by 'The Economist' magazine, a third of the world’s cities will be susceptible to the effects of climate change by 2025.

But cities also contain a disproportionate amount of buildings and street lights, account for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and could be pivotal in mitigating the worst effects of climate change.

While 45% of Europe’s total CO2 emissions come from inefficiencies in buildings’ heating and cooling systems, intelligent designs can slash both carbon pollution and energy bills by two thirds.

Incorporating renewable energies can create buildings that produce no net CO2 use at all.

Adrian Joyce, the secretary-general of the European Association of Companies for Energy Efficiency (Euroace) said that he hoped Van Rompuy, who recently praised the sector’s job creation potential, would listen to the Energy Cities letter.

Democratic deficit

“The initiative has my 100% support,” he said. “Cities and regions are overlooked as actors today and are very well-placed to bring about a sea change in energy efficiency on the ground, as opposed to in policy.”

It was “ironic if not a potential democratic deficit” that elected representatives in Europe’s city halls and Parliament might be over-ruled by an unelected European Commission, he said.

One industry source who requested anonymity dubbed it “another example of the EU not listening to its citizens.”

Würzner said that the world’s local authorities were stepping in to fill the breach left by a failure of government action. “But we cannot forever remain the back office workers,” he warned. “We need adequate recognition and continuous support to keep moving forwards.”

A study by the C40 group of the world’s megacities earlier this month expressed frustration with the failure to agree a post-Kyoto climate treaty.

“In the continuing absence of tangible outcomes from inter-governmental efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the report said, “the mayors of the world’s greatest cities are taking concrete actions to demonstrate that preventing catastrophic climate change is possible.”

Europe lags in buildings efficiency race

The C40 study cited 1,668 buildings efficiency actions, and 114 improvements to outdoor lighting. But Europe’s cities lag behind South and West Asia, North America and East Asia in measures taken.

A target to annually refurbish 3% of the continent’s public building stocks in the Energy Efficiency Directive was gutted by member states before making it into statute. Germany may now only need to refurbish 37 public buildings to comply.  

Policy levers such as regulations, incentives and procurement requirements spur efficiency projects in many parts of the world. Europe though, is second only to East Asia in its preference for programmes and projects.

Where outdoor lighting is concerned, The C40 paper found that 90% of cities were taking action, with the wealthiest conurbations increasingly using LED lighting.

But sodium lighting remains the most common technology with a market penetration ranging from 91% in cities with very low GDP’s per capita, to 76% in richer urban districts.

“Switching to energy efficient LED lighting solutions coupled with smart controls can bring energy savings of 40% on average and up to 80% for individual projects,” Harry Verhaar, the public affairs chief at Philips Lighting told EurActiv.

Such a switch could also reduce the need for 640 medium-sized power plants, bringing costing savings of approximately €130 billion, the firm believes.

New York City

“Beyond lighting, it is imperative in our opinion that the final EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework includes provisions for more widely addressing the potential of energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and cities,” Verhaar said.

Improved buildings efficiency has heralded a 19% drop in New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, putting the city firmly on track to meet a targeted 30% CO2 cut by 2030.  The city’s air is now the cleanest it has been in 50 years.

In recognition of this, the former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was last month appointed as a UN special envoy for cities and climate change. His ideas continue to move policy-makers.

After talks between the US and China on 15 February, a state department note said that the two countries had reached agreement on implementation plans for five initiatives, one of which would involved energy efficiency in buildings.  

  • March 2014: EU Council will discuss climate and energy issues
  • May 2014: New EU Parliament to be elected
  • May 2014: EU member states must prepare schemes for their energy companies to deliver annual energy savings of 1.5% as part of the Energy Efficiency Directive
  • June 2014: Review of progress towards meeting the 2020 energy efficiency target
  • June 2014: EU Council will discuss energy and climate issues
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to meet binding targets for 20% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, improvements in energy efficiency, and market share for renewable energy
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David Muscat's picture

This is good news for all as the issues are of great interest to everyone.
What has to be very clearly stated is that the fraud of Wind Energy subsidies being promoted by the EWEA in that they can harness large amounts of energy efficiently has been thoroughly disproved and the fact that they need so high a subsidy confirms this in its entirety. These wind turbines using the format they currently use are less than efficient in converting wind to electricity and their on-line ability is significantly lower than 25%. All the EU Governments and those in the wider community have fallen for "hook line and sinker" with more of a nod to the manufacturers and investers who are milking the Governments for every €uro they can get.
We know that there are far better wind power generation devices available which are ready and proven to be twice as efficient as these turbines and which need not be any higher than 15 to 20 metres at most which can produce the same output of electricity at a quarter of the costs and their on-line serviceability is over 50%.
Now this is the truth and it needs addressing and the existing wind issue and the developments are a fraud in this whole issue and they need stopping.

Future of Rural Energy in Europe 's picture

Energy Cities are very right to call for a binding energy efficiency target. Just to add to this that rural areas need it as much as cities!

Integrating rural areas into the EU’s long term planning is key in achieving environmental, economic and societal goals. The European countryside is a fertile ground for cleaner energy, which is not yet an obvious choice in rural areas. Furthermore, there is vast potential for energy efficiency in rural areas through the improvement of old and inefficient building stock.


Karel Yurian's picture

The Other point in this debate is the needs to address the real issues of providing Green Transport Fuels (Biofuels) made from Non-Food sources of generic Biomass (or Lignocelluloses.)

Time and time again eminent people have stated that the use of food crops such as wheat and corn and sugar beat and sugar cane to make the biofuels like Ethanol or or Propanol or Butanol or the Aviation Gasolines and JP04s and JP08s etc for transport (cars vans lorries buses and rail as well as for aircraft and shipping) has to be made from secure sources of materials that are not food crops as a direct supply, or are not grown on land taken away from growing food or which protect food crops by being part of the tropical forests and arboreal forests and are not exploited from the seas from the protective macro-algae/planktons that are the natural kelps and the likes that protect the animals in the seas and oceans. By all means use the by-products from Society - the wastes - and by all means grow artificially the algaes but be aware that the natural foodstuffs are a key resource for preserving mankind's future existence. And for those that say that even in Africa there is enough food grown to keep the nations in that continernt fully kempt with foods, take a look again this is not so, there may be more than you think but the greedy Western Nations are exploiting that issue left right and centre!

People need to travel and the idea that they can drive around in electrically-powered vehicles and be capable of driving between cities on a single fuel storage of electricity in a battery is far from realistic. Whereas a car with 50 litres of fuel (say) can travel 600 kilometres without recourse to being refuelled until you have passed 500 kilometres is a realism with liquid fuels and the compressed gases but not electricity. So here then is the conundrum facing the mentors of the Green Cities situation. It is all very well saying that everyone should use electrically-driven transport but that is best suited for mass movements of people. We all applaud the ideas of SNCF and the Japanese/Koreans and PRC with their high-speed railway systems (and the equivalent elsewhere with conventional trains and trams and the likes) but these ideals are nonsensical in a mixed urban-rural community where even the notion of such transport is totally far fetched. The ideals of an Energy City has to start with the practicalities.

Personal Transport is one of these. Provide a Green Fuel for Transport and you will receive all the accolades ever thought about. And so it can be done.

We read with greatest interest that there are two Companies in European Union working flat out to get this proposal going: one in Malta (Applied Biofuels Malta Limited) and another in Hardenberg in the Netherlands (Genesyst EU bv). These two Companies have developed a process based around a common thread of converting biomass to make the transport fuels ethanol butanol and the aviation fuels. These two companies share the same vison and the same procedures and have shown that they can make ethanol and butanol at a competitive rate and then it can be marketed at less than €uro 0-80 per litre for Ethanol, and less than €uro 1-10 per litre for butanol - all taxes paid.

This is not rockewt science but plain and basic chemical engineering and simple processing. This procedurte is so natural (developed in the 1820s and exploited in the 20th century before the massive oil usage) that it has elevated the Companies to a position where within their own developments they will be working upon a large number of projects within the ext few years and be well on the way to meeting the aims of matching the EU edicts for exceeding the 10% supply of biofuels from Non-Food sources (such as wastes) within some EU countries well before 2019.

And now that we hear that these two Companies are being Floated on the Stock Markets what else can be said. These Companies have the edge in being able to make biofuels from Non-Food sources at avery competitive edge that has mystified even those companies that continue to use food crops for the manufacture of same. Now we hear that several major companiea around the World have expressed great interest in this model of working and are looking to engage Applied Biofuels Malta Limited in their own areas of interest. What a development?

So Energy Cities take note, this will solve your waste systems and provide a fuel for the masses at a saving of over a third to the Public. This Green Initiative of being able to say that everything that is green should cost more and be heavily subsidised is a nonsense now.