EU Parliament set for war over energy efficiency

Industry committee MEPs will vote at the end of November on Adam Gierek's (standing) report on energy efficiency. [European Parliament]

Lawmakers in the European Parliament have finalised the text of a crucial energy efficiency law ahead of an important vote on 28 November. But political infighting both between and within the main political groups means the result is far from certain.

MEPs last week tabled their final compromise amendments for an upcoming vote on the Energy Efficiency Directive. The result of the vote will form the basis of the Parliament’s joint position ahead of trilateral talks with the European Commission and EU member states in the Council.

Adam Gierek, the Polish rapporteur on the directive, has bowed to pressure from his own political group, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D), and suggested amendments that mirrors the party’s line as well as past Parliament votes on energy efficiency.

Sources familiar with the file suggest that Gierek actually surrendered de facto control of the report to the rest of his group, including the author of the environment committee’s opinion, Swedish MEP Jytte Guteland.

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Back on track

The new set of amendments indeed bears little similarity to Gierek’s previous drafts, as they now include a full 40% efficiency target, as well as binding national targets. Article 7 of the directive, which governs annual energy saving obligations on energy sales, is also beefed up in terms of obligations and timeframe.

Arianna Vitali, an energy expert at WWF Europe, said: “After a rocky start, the S&D group have rallied behind strong amendments on energy efficiency.”

But shadow rapporteur Markus Pieper has tabled amendments on behalf of the European People’s Party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, which are in stark contrast to the ambition shown by the S&D.

Not only does the German MEP back an indicative 30% target, along the lines of the European Council’s so-called general approach brokered in June, his proposed Article 7’s timeframe is slashed and a number of industry-focused exemptions are introduced.

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‘Unacceptable’ amendments

The Coalition for Energy Savings today published an assessment of Pieper’s amendments and calculated that, if implemented, they would cost Europe 690,000 jobs and reduce GDP by €157bn by 2030, compared with the Commission’s original proposal.

Gas imports would also increase by 15% and residential greenhouse gas emissions would grow by 12.4%. The coalition’s appraisal criticises the amendments for “maintaining loopholes proposed by the Commission” and for even adding new ones.

S&D MEP Miroslav Poche told that the EPP’s alternative proposals are “unacceptable” and that the Article 7 amendment would “render the whole article meaningless”. Greens/EFA MEP Benedek Javor also said the EPP idea is “unacceptable”.

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Vote hunting

As things stand, the EPP/ECR position will be defeated in the industry committee vote (ITRE), so Pieper’s ultra-conservative stance has been interpreted as an attempt to reach out to the far-right of the political spectrum, including the Europe of Nations and Freedom group, as they are the only factions that oppose strengthening the Commission’s initial proposal.

The S&D can currently count on the full support of its own MEPs, a prospect which was not guaranteed a number of weeks ago when Gierek’s previous draft threatened to split the socialists along east-west lines. Now it also has the support of the liberal ALDE, the Greens and the Spanish faction of GUE.

If Pieper is unable to lure enough support for his proposals then the S&D’s position will be adopted by the Parliament, either directly or in a full plenary session. Whether MEP Gierek will then be mandated to negotiate in trialogue with the other institutions at this stage remains unclear.

EU lawmakers back 40% energy efficiency target for 2030

MEPs agreed on Thursday (7 September) to raise the bloc’s proposed energy efficiency targets post-2020 in order to improve chances of meeting EU obligations under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

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