Danish centre-right MEP Bendt Bendtsen (European People's Party; EPP), who is drafting the European Parliament's report on the revised action plan, argued that more implementation will be key in unlocking energy savings. He also stressed the importance of more innovation in the transport sector.
"Our real problem is a lack of financing, so we have to look at structural funds and we also have to find ways of accessing private capital," Bendtsen said.
UK Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe; ALDE), the shadow rapporteur on the revision of the action plan, stressed the importance of keeping an open mind on all possibilities, as the need for energy-efficiency improvements stretches across various sectors.
"We need to look at the possibility of EU-wide targets which would capture energy efficiency on the supply side as well as looking at the demand side of energy efficiency," she said.
Hall added that the EU should look at the possibility of introducing targets for member states to renovate a certain percentage of buildings each year, on which there are currently no obligations.
EuroACE, the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings, argued that a revision of the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive (ESD) should introduce binding national targets for energy savings in buildings as well as a mandatory target to increase the renovation rate.
"The mandatory approach has clearly been more effective for meeting the carbon reduction and renewable energy targets and, without a clear and measurable target for reducing the demand for energy use in buildings, Europe risks falling far short of its efficiency goal," the association said.
EuroACE pointed out that a binding target for energy savings in buildings is easier to calculate and administer than an overall primary energy savings target. It added that the rate of renovation will have to increase by a factor of two or three from the current rate of 1.2% to 1.4% by 2020 for Europe to meet its goals.
The Energy Efficiency Industrial Forum (EEIF), which includes organisations like the European Copper Institute, the European Lamp Companies Federation and the European Federation of Intelligent Energy Efficiency Services, called for an ambitious building strategy concentrating on the refurbishment of existing buildings, coupled with a financing strategy for very low-energy buildings.
"Policymakers need, as a priority, to direct a higher proportion of EU funds directly to energy efficiency, for example via the EU recovery plan, ETS revenue spend, structural funds and other routes," the companies said. They urged the Commission to identify new proposals to "bridge the gap between large grants as provided via the structural funds and EIB [European Investment Bank] loans and the small investments typically required in many energy efficiency projects".
A coalition of energy efficiency industries and NGOs, including EuroACE, Cogen Europe, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and others, regretted in a letter to EU leaders the lack of commitment to energy efficiency in the 'Europe 2020' strategy for growth.
"Even taking into account the economic recession and policies adopted since the 2006 Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP), a three-fold increase in policy impact will be needed to achieve the 20% target," they wrote. The coming months will present "a narrow window of opportunity," they argued.
"The forthcoming Energy Action Plan and review of the 2006 EEAP must set out the framework and new legislation to ensure that the savings gap is closed," the coalition stressed. It called for targeted efficiency policies and binding targets.
The Energy Efficiency Action Plan Taskforce of the European Construction Sector, which includes business associations like the European Construction Industry Federation (FIEC) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), NGOs like the European Climate Foundation, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), argues that binding renovation targets are needed to encourage the roll-out of large scale, systematic and quality-controlled renovation programmes.
"Such targets need to be well formulated, related to a common understanding of the level of improved performance needed, connected to financing and incentive systems and be fully co-ordinated. They also need to be supported by effective energy performance certificate schemes that allow investors and fiscal authorities to make a fair appraisal of the energy performance and savings potential of a building," the experts said.
They estimated that the 2020 target should be set at 50 million buildings to undergo major energy renovation, which should be defined so that it can be tied to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
Veolia Environnement argued that the revision of the action plan is an opportunity to identify and overcome barriers to efficient implementation of measures in priority areas such as co-generation, district heating and buildings.
Efficiency in the non-emissions trading sectors "will only be pursued if it is economical," the company said. "The energy efficiency framework needs to be transparent over time with clear objectives and targets, economically attractive and visible," it added, pointing out that it would have to be adapted to the high number of small projects that characterise the building sector.
Veolia therefore called on the EU to promote the use of products adapted to financing small projects while also encouraging the financing of "highly visible demonstration projects," particularly in public transport and thermal energy.
European environmental NGOs urged the European Commission to set a binding energy-efficiency target with an absolute cap on the energy consumption of each member state by 2020. In a letter to Commission President José Manuel Barroso, CAN-Europe, the EEB, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and WWF wrote that the binding target should be accompanied by harmonised provisions on measuring, reporting and complying with it.
They stressed the importance of including in the action plan measures on the coherent use of taxation to discourage the use of energy wasteful products. This should be complemented by reduced VAT for energy saving goods and services, they added. "A clear proposal from the Commission on this topic is instrumental in driving the debate at European level and should not be disregarded," the NGOs said.
COGEN Europe in its position paper on energy efficiency says the "cogeneration measures in the new text signal a clear intention by the Commission to create a supportive environment for existing and new cogeneration operators, underpinning their investment certainty and the economic justification on the investment."
At the same time, it makes a number of requests for the combined heat and power sector, including maintaining continuity of the legal framework, requiring "measurable progress" for CHP and keeping primary energy as the measure for energy savings.