EU member states not reaching 2020 energy efficiency goals, Commission says

European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger with Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

European Commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger with Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

EXCLUSIVE / Further efforts are needed by member states to reach the EU’s energy saving target of 20% by 2020, the European Commission said in a leaked draft communication obtained by EURACTIV. The Commission also watered down the target for 2030 considerably in the latest draft.

Based on an analysis of member state actions and additional forecasts, the Commission now estimates that the EU will achieve energy savings of around 18-19% in 2020, according to the draft document.

However, the Commission also writes that if all member states now, “work equally hard to implement fully the agreed legislation then the 20% target can be achieved without the need for additional measures.”

These efforts could include informing consumers better of the energy performance of buildings for sale or rent, forcing utilities to working with their customers to obtain energy savings, and strengthening market surveillance of the energy efficiency of products.

Energy efficiency has a fundamental role to play in making Europe more competitive, the EU executive believes. While energy powers economies, future growth needs to be driven with less energy and at a lower cost. The EU can deliver this new paradigm, the Commission states.

2030 target watered down

EURACTIV previously reported that the Commission had proposed a 40% energy efficiency target for 2030 which would grow Europe’s economy at a rate of 4% a year, spark an annual 3.15% boost in employment, and cut fossil fuel imports by €505 billion a year.

But tomorrow’s communication by the Commission could lower the ambition considerably. A new draft version, which dates back to last Friday (18 July) mentions in its conclusions that “the Commission considers it appropriate to propose a more ambitious target of [2X%]”. Sources have told EURACTIV the Commission would land on 27% or 28% in tomorrow’s plan, which is dramatically lower than the earlier suggestion of 40%.

Another issue still up in the air is whether the target should be binding or not. 

Outgoing EU energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, has called for a legally-binding proposal this autumn to cut energy use by 2030, as a way of curbing Europe’s reliance on Russia for a third of its oil, and 39% of its gas supplies. The call was supported by energy and climate ministers in a letter to Oettinger, José Manuel Barroso and EU Commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard.

The letter called for a “binding target” stressing “we cannot afford to miss this opportunity”. It was signed by ministers from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal and dates back to 17 June.

However, the UK and some eastern European states are not as enthusiastic as the EU’s executive, saying a higher target as a costly drag on economic growth.

An official from the UK’s Department of Climate Change recently said that a binding efficiency target “would not be acceptable to the UK as it could force EU member states to implement measures that are not cost-effective and have negative consequences for the carbon price.”

Luxembourgish MEP Claude Turmes from the Greens commented on EURACTIV's story:

"The EU is roughly on track for its 2020 target but still the highest levels in the Commission are deliberately sabotaging their own figures from the 2030 modelling which show that a high ambition scenario of 40% by 2030 would make Europe independent from Russian gas imports, increase GDP by 4% and create up to 1,4 billion more jobs. The future Commission president Juncker stated that we need to continue with current ambition. This clearly means that we need to continue with the current 2% increase in energy efficiency per year. Therefore the Commission has to support in its meeting today a 40% increase by 2030 as voted by a large majority in the European Parliament earlier this year."

Franziska Achterberg, EU energy policy director of Greenpeace EU, said: "If this [2030 targets] plan goes through, the Commission will do a huge disservice to Europeans, businesses and the environment. More energy efficiency means more jobs, lower energy bills and less reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports from Russia and other places. Even incoming Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has shown up the Commission's lack of ambition by backing a higher efficiency target for 2030." Juncker mentioned the next Commission hopes to achieve a minimum of 30% reduction on energy use in the EU, in a hearing in the European Parliament, last week.

Europe aims to reduce its primary energy use by 20% by 2020, a target which is not legally binding.

The Energy Efficiency Directive was proposed by the European Commission in mid-2011 as part of its effort to reach this objective. To do this, the EU will need to more than double its energy savings efforts, according to the Commission's estimates.

In its draft energy efficiency directive, the Commission proposed individual measures for each of the sectors that could play a role in reducing energy consumption, including an obligation on energy companies to reduce their deliveries to customers by 1.5% each year, that has proved complex and in many quarters controversial.

  • Sept. 2014: Review of progress towards meeting the 2020 energy efficiency target
  • Oct. 2014: European Council to decide on 2030 climate and energy targets
  • 2016: European Commission to review the directive.
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to meet voluntary 20% energy-efficiency target

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