Energy Efficiency Directive, our last chance to reach the 2020 goal

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of PLC.

If European citizens are unaware of their energy consumption levels, they will be unable to reduce their energy use, argues John Harris.

John Harris is Vice President and Head of Governmental Affairs at Landis+Gyr, a global company providing electricity metering systems. He contributed this commentary in exclusivity for EURACTIV.

"It is often said that the most climate-friendly, secure unit of energy is the one that is not needed.

This is true, but the reality is that in order to achieve significant reductions in CO2 emissions and to increase security of energy supply, electricity demand will probably rise dramatically. The electrification of transport alone will send electricity consumption through the roof! In tandem, energy prices are predicted to climb dramatically.

Assuming that European consumers will not accept a substantial reduction in the level of comfort they currently enjoy nor tolerate exorbitantly high energy prices, doing more with less is vital.

But where do we start? In the arguments over the Energy Efficiency Directive, the section on metering and billing has almost been lost in the fray. 

If the current view of the Council regarding smart metering and informative billing prevails, the consequences may be dramatic. Without these provisions, the Directive will lose a significant component of increased energy efficiency: informed consumers. How can Europeans reduce energy use if they are unaware of their energy consumption levels?

In fact, one of the most substantial lessons learned so far has been that sustainable reductions in energy consumption are dependent upon providing direct feedback to consumers. Recently, the European Smart Metering Industry Group commissioned a study to examine what measures, combined with smart metering, brought the greatest energy savings. The figures from 400 pilot projects, involving more than 450,000 consumers, indicated that smart metering, combined with an in-home display, brought average consumption reductions of almost 9%.

The Energy Efficiency Directive is the last chance to get it right and equip Europe to make real progress towards meeting its energy efficiency goal. As the majority of member states are still in the process of planning the rollout of smart meters, the time is ripe to lay the foundation of the smart grid with smart metering systems that have real energy savings potential.

It is vital that the technology that we put in place delivers on the promise of energy efficiency and not simply saves on meter reading."