MEPs push for efficiency in long-term EU energy strategy

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Energy efficiency can increase the EU's energy independence and should take centre stage in the Commission's upcoming second strategic energy review, argue a group of MEPs in a letter to future EU presidencies. 

The letter, dated 9 October and signed by a cross-party group of five MEPs including Claude Turmes (Luxembourg, Greens) and Anders Wijkman (Sweden, Christian Democrats), is addressed to the energy and environment ministers of Spain, Belgium and Sweden: the countries that will chair the EU’s rotating presidency between 2010 and 2012.

The MEPs want the ministers to “influence the drafting of EU Commission proposal on the second strategic energy review in order to make sure that energy efficiency is the key priority for the coming years”.

Brussels is expected to publish the review in November.

Common vision?

The current EU presidency, held by France, recently spoke out in support of energy efficiency improvements, identifying them as “the top priority” of its energy agenda and “one of the most effective means of increasing energy security. Energy efficiency is “the cornerstone of our ambitious policy to combat global warming” (EURACTIV 09/10/08).

Paris made the comments in a briefing note delivered to EU energy ministers meeting in Luxembourg today (10 October) in an attempt to reach a common position on the EU’s third liberalisation ‘package‘ for electricity and gas markets.

But the Commission has already indicated that energy efficiency will be only one part, and not necessarily the top priority, of the strategy document. 

The review will “focus on five key areas: infrastructure needs and the diversification of energy supplies, external energy relations, improved oil and gas stocks and crisis mechanisms, a new impetus on energy efficiency, and making better use of the EU’s indigenous energy reserves,” Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a 9 October speech. 

Leaky windows

In a separate move, the Commission wil table specific changes to the existing EU Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) in November. 

A leaked draft of the plans, obtained by ENDS Europe, points to a mandate for energy savings measures in buildings that would require €8 billion in capital investment to implement. But the upgrades should in turn lead to annual savings of up to €25 billion, according to Commission estimates.

More efficiency, less Gazprom?

Tightening Europe’s buildings is one of many measures that is frequently mentioned as a means of weening the EU from its dependence on foreign gas imports, including Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom.

The topic of Gazprom is rarely absent from EU-level discussions about the link between energy-efficiency improvements and greater energy security. But dealing with the gas supplier, which delivers a steadily growing share of the EU’s gas needs (currently at 25%), poses a challenge to the Commission, which struggles to herd member states into speaking with a single voice on relations with third-country energy suppliers. 

Member states like Germany are said to oppose Commission plans to indroduce a ‘reciprocity clause’ into the future legal framework governing competition and market access in the EU’s energy system.

Dubbed the ‘Gazprom clause’, the measure would require third countries like Russia to grant EU firms the same legal certainty and market-access rights as those enjoyed by foreign firms operating on EU soil. 

But Berlin is concerned that such a measure could undermine Germany’s national energy interests, which are being guaranteed in part through long-term supply contracts with major fossil fuel exporting countries, among which Russia.

In addition to ongoing discussions about the potential coexistence of both non-liberalised and liberalised national energy markets within the EU, the reciprocity clause was expected to be among the more controversial topics at today’s Energy Council.

In January 2007, the Commission presented its first strategic energy review as part of a wider communication on energy and climate change. 

The review provided part of the basis for commitments made by EU countries in March 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020, while boosting renewable energy use by 20% over the same period.

The Commission's climate and energy package, tabled on 23 January 2008, followed up on the commitments by putting forward several proposals, including on emissions trading, CO2 capture and storage and renewable energies (EURACTIV LinksDossier).

  • 10 Oct. 2008: EU energy ministers meeting in Luxembourg;
  • Nov. 2008: Commission to publish second strategic energy review and a proposal to revise the EU's Energy Peformance of Buildings Directive;
  • March 2009: Spring European Council to adopt conclusions on the strategic energy review and end of current Parliament's legislature.

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