This article is part of our special report Energy Efficiency in Buildings.
SPECIAL REPORT / To maintain Europe’s emissions-cutting momentum, a 30% cut in energy usage is needed by 2030, rising to 35% if the EU wants to reap the benefits of energy security, jobs and growth, says a draft communication for the bloc’s energy efficiency review, seen by EURACTIV.
The target would be indicative – or non-binding on member-states – until 2017 at least, and would be based on an absolute reduction in primary energy consumption of 1312 Million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) for the 35% figure, and 1218 Mtoe for the 30% goal.
The paper is broadly in line with findings from an impact assessment revealed by EURACTIV last week, which show that higher efficiency targets would bring optimum levels of GDP growth, jobs, energy security and emissions cuts.
But no agreement on a final goal to complement a planned 40% greenhouse gas emissions cut was reached at a meeting between the EU president José Manuel Barroso and a cabinet of top Commissioners on 18 June.
Barroso himself is thought sympathetic to a robust 2030 energy savings target, and is said to have given a green light to the energy and climate commissioners, Günther Oettinger and Connie Hedegaard, to push for a higher headline figure than 25%. A number in the 30%-35% range remains firmly in play.
This faces strong opposition though from the EU’s secretary-general Catherine Day, a key power in the current Commission regime, who is holding out for a 25%-27% energy savings goal on grounds of cost-effectiveness.
“The bottom line is that this [target] has to be fully in line with the rest of the 2030 package, it has to be politically acceptable, it also has to be technically feasible,” one EU official said. “If you have a higher energy efficiency target then that has implications for costs in the non-ETS (Emissions Trading System) sectors, especially for some member states.”
The position is grounded in upfront investment costs, a particular form of modelling, and parts of the 2030 impact assessment which anticipate citizens taking low carbon investment decisions on the basis of a €40 per tonne carbon price by 2030, in the 40% of Europe’s industry that the ETS covers.
Environmentalists argue that this is “ivory tower thinking,” because it assumes that the carbon price will one day drive home-owners to renovate their houses and farmers to change their livestock.
Speaking at a German-Danish 2030 targets workshop on 18 June, the Green MEP Claude Turmes, simply asked: “Where is the political majority for that sort of carbon price?” Recent attempts to modestly raise the cost of allowances provoked strong reaction from business lobbies, even though the current price of around €5 a tonne is far too low to affect investments in energy efficiency or renewables.
Despite grumbles from Barroso’s office that their lobbying is fragmentary and counter-productive, officials in the EU’s energy and climate action departments insist that targeted energy saving measures will deliver quantifiable emissions reductions, without threatening the ETS itself.
In the short term, the new draft communication proposes:
- A review of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives, which deal with the efficiency of household products, due for the end of 2014
- Bringing forward reviews of the Energy Efficiency and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive to 2015
- A review of progress towards meeting the new 2030 objective in 2017, at which stronger measures could be unfurled.
The bloc’s 28 member states are already committed to a 2020 target that would slash energy consumption by 20%, compared to 2005 levels.
According to the communication, “with full implementation and monitoring of already-adopted legislation, the EU can put itself on track to achieve this target, saving 170 Mtoe.”
Revert to binding targets in 2017?
“But we cannot be complacent,” the document adds. “The Commission therefore intends to return to the topic in 2017, in particular to review whether national implementation is going as intended, or whether it is necessary to revert to the issue of binding energy efficiency targets.”
Sources close to the EU president’s office say that it would be a mistake to conclude from the impact assessment and draft communication that recommendations for higher efficiency targets had been “concreted”.
A Brussels consensus holds that the 40% goal favoured by the new impact assessment would be unacceptable to the UK and Visegrad countries, but that a ‘binding at EU-level’ energy savings target, probably higher than 27%, would eventually be forthcoming.
The January 2030 package proposed a 27% indicative target for the share of renewable energy in countries’ national energy mixes, even though its impact assessment found that a 30% goal would create 568,000 more jobs and save €260 billion in fossil fuel imports.
Industry sources say that any attempt now to over-ride the findings of the EU’s efficiency impact assessment and communication would raise questions about the wisdom of spending so much money on them in the first place.
“Impact assessments are made to be followed and if they’re not, that is not a very cost-effective use of Commission or tax-payers resources,” Andoni Hildago, a spokesman for the European Insulation Manufacturers Association told EURACTIV.