The EU-funded Energy Efficiency Watch analysis interviewed 80 experts and collected 655 questionnaires before concluding that an “enormous disparity” between EU states needed to be overcome with more harmonisation and integration of policies.
“In some member states, the recognition of the economic, social, political and environmental benefits of energy efficiency drives ambitious legislation and funding programmes,” the report says, “whereas others just do the bare minimum required by the European Directives (and sometimes even less than that).”
EU legislation requires states to submit National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) in the years 2007, 2011 and 2014 outlining their plans to achieve indicative targets of 9% final energy savings by 2016, as required by the Energy Services Directive.
Ex-government officials from different EU countries have told EurActiv that the directive's non-binding targets were routinely ignored, ticked off, or met by using legislative tricks.
Ralf Schüle of the Wuppertal Institute who helped screen member state NEEAPs for the survey said that substantial progress had been made in the buildings sector and with energy saving public procurement.
But “measures addressing different sectors are often not well aligned with each other or lack a clear design in terms of their implementation at the member state level,” he cautioned.
Modal shifts in transport and coherent policy packages for industry – including the carriage of goods – also need to be addressed, according to the report. Across the continent, the least ambition in energy savings measures was found in the transport sector.
Lack of political will
The report’s authors blamed “the lack of political will and a clear strategy to act”.
The survey - of private sector, public sector, energy agency and academic actors in the field - bemoaned a lack of long-term strategy or vision beyond 2020.
Denmark and Bulgaria are singled out for praise in their strategic planning, while public sector planners in France and the UK were lauded for their clear vision.
But Italy, and the Czech and Slovak republics were the three countries where energy efficiency policies had progressed the least since the first NEEAPs.
Stefan Thomas, the director of the Institute’s energy and climate division, said that crucial steps to a more effective and integrated energy saving policy included "the establishment of institutions and infrastructures that promote energy efficiency, such as energy or climate protection agencies, the establishment of energy efficiency obligations and/or energy efficiency trusts or funds and the creation of favourable framework conditions for energy services."
Only a minority of EU states had made a clear link between long-term climate, energy and energy efficiency strategy, the report found. For now, the overall picture of the continent’s efficiency performance remained “somewhat ambivalent” it said.
CBI joins the fray
The new Europe-wide analysis was released on 28 August, as the UK’s Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also called for a big push on energy efficiency. The British business leaders’ group called for:
- A weaving of policy strands to create a coherent framework that engaged employers
- Supporting the energy-intensive sector with increased use of Combined Heat and Power technology
- Using the Business Bank set up by UK's business minister Vince Cable to help SMEs, to raise awareness about available energy saving schemes and expanding the Green Deal for businesses
- Studying how business rates could be used to incentivise energy efficiency - by waiving rates for the refurbishment of properties left empty in the short term
Rhian Kelly the CBI’s director for Business Environment Policy said that energy savings measures had “sneaked under the radar” to materially help UK business but still had great untapped potential.
“Businesses are frustrated with the tangle of overlapping policies that are bureaucratic, complex and costly,” she said. “Some firms will have to report their energy use and emissions in different ways under different schemes, so the government should assess all energy efficiency policies that affect business and come up with a simpler approach.”
Businesses also needed to step up and “make the leap” to energy efficient practices, in Kelly’s view.
“The government could explore ways of using business rates more innovatively to reward those who plough money back into improving the energy performance of buildings,” she said.