EU leaders threw their weight behind the Commission's action plan at their annual Spring Summit on 9 March 2007, stressing "the need…to achieve the objective of saving 20% of the EU's energy consumption compared to projections for 2020". They also urged the Commission to "rapidly submit proposals" on:
- Energy savings from office and street lighting "to be adopted by 2008", and;
- "incandescent lamps and other forms of lighting in private households by 2009".
In their conclusions adopted earlier in November 2006, EU energy ministers generelly supported the Commission's action plan. However, the Council insisted that any new proposal from the Commission should be subject to a comprehensive impact assessment that considers "in a balanced way the social, environmental and economic" consequences of legislation. The Council highlighted five priority actions for the Commission and member states:
- Using an integrated approach to cut fuel consumption in cars, in cooperation with the automobile and fuel industries;
- strengthening measures to cut consumption of household appliances, including stand-by loss (eco-design directive);
- strengthen labelling for household products (Directive 92/75/EEC);
- use R&D programmes at European and national levels;
- continue work on implementation of the buildings directive.
Makers of household electric appliances including fridges, vacuum cleaners and cooking and washing devices, urged the EU to adopt legislation to tackle what they claim is the poor enforcement of energy labelling and product rules at national level. Magnus Yngen of Electrolux, the President of the European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED), said in a statement on 21 March 2007: "Today we have a very worrisome situation where politicians set rules, expect companies to abide by them and then fail to invest the resources needed to stop the lawbreakers".
"Too many governments are not stopping careless or unscrupulous operators from marketing products that claim better energy efficiency than they actually deliver," said Yngen. "Governments must guarantee fair competition by enforcing the law and ensuring that product declarations are genuine or our investment in high performing products is compromised. The next round of improvements needs to be driven by legislation that applies to all and is enforced on all."
Environmental NGOs reacted with dismay at the Council's "empty words" on energy savings. Friends of the Earth said the ministers had ducked out concrete commitments to cut energy waste by refusing to make the 2020 target legally binding. "The plan falls short in several sectors, especially in the transport sectot. Friends of the Earth Europe continues to insist that the fuel efficiency of cars must improve and that mandatory targets are the only realistic way to achieve this."
The Commission proposals received cross-party support in the European Parliament. In a joint statement, individual MEPs from five different political groups (EPP-ED, Socialist, ALDE, Greens/EFA, GUE/NGL) said a Europe-wide framework needs to be built to reap the economic and environmental benefits of energy savings. Together, they submitted a joint paper for an energy intelligent Europe for 2020.
INFORSE-Europe - a coalition of 64 NGOs promoting clean energy in the EU and former soviet countries - welcomed the Commission's energy green paper but said more should be done. It argues that the 20% energy efficiency target for 2020 should in fact be set as a minimum target and called for an intermediary target of 14% to be established for 2015. It called for harmonised energy taxation to be introduced by a vanguard group of EU countries using the Amsterdam Treaty's so-called "enhanced cooperation" procedure and for fast-track procedures to be used for product standards and labelling.
Eurima - the European insulation manufacturers association - stated that with oil prices and CO2 emissions still rising, focusing more attention on energy efficiency had become a necessity for Europe. More specifically, Eurima welcomed the green paper's proposal to lower the incentives threshold for renovation of buildings to 1,000 square meters. Eurima's Director General Horst Biedermann said this was essential if Europe is to capture the huge savings potential from buildings.