The 27 EU Commissioners are meeting in Brussels today (20 February) to consider early proposals for 2030 climate targets covering CO2 emissions and possibly renewables. But the proposals aren't likely to extend to efficiency, despite EU data showing the continent is on track to miss its 2020 goals.
A briefing paper for the ‘college orientation debate’, seen by EURACTIV, cites the EU low-carbon roadmap milestones for 2030 of a 40% cut in carbon emissions and 30% EU-wide share for renewables, but only talks vaguely of “energy efficiency improvements”.
“An analysis needs to be made of whether having only a GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions target for 2030 could also deliver on the security of supply and competitiveness objectives,” the paper says, adding that a 2030 target for renewables “could also be envisaged”.
“In addition, some also consider that there is a need for a separate target related to energy efficiency,” it adds, in what may be an accurate reflection of an emerging member state consensus focusing on a single CO2 emissions target.
Green academics and associations that have seen the paper tend to broadly welcome this Commission – and its president’s – will to tackle the issue head-on, but with caveats.
“Maybe I’m biased, but reading the paper I don’t get the impression that energy efficiency is even an EU objective at the same level as greenhouse gases or renewables,” said Jan te Bos, the director of Eurima, the European insulation manufacturers association.
“We have to be careful that this debate is not just about energy supply but also about energy demand management, and that could have been better reflected in the paper,” he told EURACTIV.
To limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the EU has pledged an 80-95% decarbonisation of its economy by 2050, measured against 1990 levels, and milestones each decade are seen as a vital tool for measurement, implementation and correction.
By 2020, EU states have already committed to cut their emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewables in their energy mixes to 20%, and improve their energy efficiency by 20%, according to projections of future energy use.
Energy efficiency is the only one of these targets that is non-binding, and the only one measured against a projection originating in 2005, rather than 1990.
Mind the gap
However, an annex of the college orientation debate briefing notes, which EURACTIV has also seen, says that “the Commission Services estimate that the recently adopted Energy Efficiency Directive will not fully close the gap to reach the 20% energy efficiency target in 2020.”
“Primary energy in 2020 will be reduced by about 17% compared to projections,” the paper says, even though EU officials have consistently argued that existing legislation will take the bloc over the 20% energy savings line.
Te Bos said that the debate on binding climate targets should be reframed to consider them an economic opportunity rather than a burden.
“This is about cost effective ways of addressing three crises – economic, social and environmental – and energy efficiency has the biggest potential for cost effective reductions of greenhouse gases and job creation,” he said. “It’s highly surprising that people still doubt the value a binding energy savings target.”
But EU member states have proved notoriously reluctant to implement energy savings measures, hand control over them to Brussels, or accept common criteria for their measurement.
Ruffled green feathers
A “cannibalistic” overlap between energy efficiency and the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) ruffled green feathers earlier in this Commission and led to an inter-departmental turf war.
Climate directorate cabinet members complained that energy efficiency measures in the industrial sector could “undermine” the ETS by lowering emissions – and thus the carbon price – in an uncoordinated way.
The issue forms one of several questions that the briefing paper poses to Commissioners. Others include:
- Should the new framework be based around one of more climate and energy targets – and which would be most simple and effective driver of climate policy?
- Is 2030 the most relevant target date?
- How should the EU’s climate and competitiveness agendas be reconciled?
- How should the new framework ensure equal distribution of efforts by member states with differing abilities to implement climate and energy measures?
- Should this Commission present legislative proposals at the end of 2013?
- Should a Green Paper on the issue be published?
A Green Paper on 2030 targets has been widely flagged for publication in April, as has a communication by the year’s end.
Renewable energy target
In contrast to the EU’s record on energy efficiency, the bloc is on track to overshoot its CO2 emissions target by 0.9%, and to meet the renewable energy target, although Italy and Lithuania will only do so with the help of cooperation mechanisms.
However, biomass-rich Sweden, Estonia and Romania have now almost reached the magic 20% number, while Britain, Malta and the Netherlands will need to make “particular efforts” to get there, the annex to the EU’s document says.
The tone of response by the renewables industry appears welcoming of the 2030 discussion that the Commission is kicking off today, but cautious too about the numbers that it talks about.
“It would be premature to come forward with a figure for a target now and it is fair to say that we think 30% would be a very low figure, especially as a starting point,” said Julian Scola, a spokesman for the European Wind Energy Agency.
“The European Renewable Energy Council has a position of calling for a 45% figure” he added, “and so do we.”