EU warned on temptation to ‘early count’ energy savings

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Germany, Britain and the Netherlands appear to be including energy conservation measures already taken by them to meet targets under the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), according to sources in the co-generation industry.

The directive allows member states leeway in their choice of measures to reduce their energy consumption levels.

But states such as the UK have already attempted to have efficiency measures taken before and after the legislation’s nominal 2014-2020 period counted towards its required annual 1.5% energy-savings obligation. 

A fear exists that this practice could spread to other areas of the directive.

“The temptation for member states will be to include measures already taken as contributing to the total savings,” said Fiona Riddoch, director of COGEN Europe, the cogeneration industry association. 

“This kind of minimalist approach is particularly attractive at times of economic slowdown,” Riddoch said.

“It has been reported to us informally that UK, Germany or the Netherlands for instance have started to tick the EED provisions’ boxes according to that approach,” she added.

The suggestion that Germany could be early-counting its efficiency savings will raise eyebrows in London, as Berlin sent a complaint to Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger about the UK’s similar interpretation of the EED’s energy-savings obligation.

By the end of this month, EU states must provide the European Commission with indicative national energy efficiency action plans to meet the bloc’s 2020 target of reducing energy consumption by 20% on 2005 levels, as measured against projected increases.

No penalties are attached to failing to meet the target, but the plans will help the Commission to work out whether it is on track to meet it. And that could feed back into the debate on whether a binding energy savings goal is needed for 2030.

Primary energy

A key issue for the cogeneration industry – which channels the high temperatures created from power generation into heating rather than wasted emissions – is that member states use the directive’s primary energy metric in reaching their efficiency goals.

Riddoch points out that member states have themselves identified combined heat and power (CHP) savings of over 100 gigawatts of energy, equal to the emissions of more than 35 million tonnes of oil.  

Measures in the EED could potentially achieve half of this, but only if member states found sufficient scope to create the right policy environment, according to Riddoch.

This is because the European Commission, while strongly supporting cogeneration, is not yet managing to generate effective policy in its support.

“The EED takes the same approach as the original CHP Directive of assuming that if member states are asked to study the question hard enough, they will pursue supportive policy,” she said. “The evidence is that they won't.”

However, she stopped short of supporting a new regulatory approach to the problem, instead proposing that “some kind of penetration rate against the technical and economic potential for CHP may work well.”

The EU’s 2004 CHP Directive already obliges member states to produce reports outlining the character of CHP in their countries, their efforts to promote it, and remove barriers to its spread.  

In November 2000, a Commission Green Paper argued that savings from increasing the EU's share of cogeneration from 11% to 18%, could amount to 3-4% of total gross consumption in the bloc.

Cogeneration is the process of producing heat and electricity at the same time. It is also known as "combined heat and power" (CHP).

Usually fuelled by natural gas, renewable energies or waste, cogeneration installations can vary in size from small units in residential buildings to large facilities in so-called district-heating systems that provide heat and electricity for entire neighborhoods.

Cogeneration is generally considered to be more efficient and ecological than traditional electricity-producing facilities, such as nuclear or coal power plants, which simply expel heat into the atmosphere as a byproduct of electricity production.

In February 2004, the EU adopted the CHP Directive to promote cogeneration. CHP was also included in the EU's Energy Efficiency Directive, adopted on 13 June 2012, but no binding targets for its deployment were set.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Combined heat and power generation (CHP)

  • 30 April 2013: Member states must notify the Commission of their progress towards meeting national energy efficiency targets this 30 April, and every 30 April from this year on.
  • By end of 2013: Communication on 2030 targets expected
  • April 2014: First National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) to be submitted to the Commission by member states.
  • 30 June 2014: Review of progress towards meeting the 2020 energy efficiency target
  • May 2014: EU member states must prepare schemes for their energy companies to deliver annual energy savings of 1.5%
  • December 2015: Member States due to publish “Comprehensive assessments” on the potential for the application of high efficiency CHP and efficient district heating
  • 2014, 2016: European Commission to review the directive.
  • April 2017 and 2020: National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) to be submitted to the Commission by member states.
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to meet voluntary 20% energy-efficiency target

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