Sweden plans to step up Europe’s energy-efficiency legislation as it takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency at the beginning of July.
Sweden will be well-placed to push its vision on energy efficiency as it takes the EU helm in the midst of the revision of the EU’s energy efficiency action plan. The Commission launched a public consultation on 8 June and plans to present a new plan in November.
Sweden has themed its economic and environmental strategy as a “transition into an eco-efficient economy”.
Tapping into the EU’s large energy-savings potential forms an important part of the switch to a new economic model. Sweden is thus pledging to push ahead with energy-efficiency legislation even in the absence of a political agreement between EU ministers.
Forging a comprehensive action plan
According to Swedish government sources, the presidency will initiate discussions on the plan at the informal energy and environment ministers’ meeting in Sweden on 23-25 July. It hopes to present the Commission’s blueprint, if ready in November, at the December Energy Council.
Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson said her country would adopt a “systemic perspective” to the plan. The incoming presidency will look beyond energy-efficiency standards for individual appliances to the whole energy chain, from production to end use.
“Things like CHP (combined heat and power; see EURACTIV LinksDossier) with highly-efficient district heating and well-insulated houses would make an efficient system as a whole,” a Swedish government official told EURACTIV. Sweden is home to the best insulated homes in Europe, and has a long tradition of district heating from renewable sources.
The action plan aims to achieve the EU’s goal of saving 20% more energy in 2020. But unlike the EU’s other 2020 targets (slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and raising the share of renewables in the bloc’s energy mix to 20%), the energy-efficiency target is not binding.
Nevertheless, many are looking to the Swedish Presidency to push for legal commitments. In its consultation document for the recast of the energy efficiency action plan, the Commission opened a debate on the issue, saying that binding energy efficiency targets could be considered as part of the mid-term revision.
Early agreement on key legislation in sight
Sweden plans to reach an agreement with the Parliament before the year’s end on key energy-efficiency proposals mapped out in the Commission’s Second Strategic Energy Review in November 2008, and wants to move even without a common position in the Council.
“Our aim is to reach agreement before the common position, as we did with the Renewables Directive,” a Swedish government official told EURACTIV. She said the presidency would engage in talks with MEPs in October and November, with the aim of reaching an agreement before a meeting of energy ministers on 7 December.
The Parliament has adopted first-reading positions on recasting the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), extending energy labelling to cover all energy-related products, and labelling tyres. But member states have expressed doubt about some of the MEPs’ amendments (EURACTIV 15/06/09).
The incoming presidency is set for hard bargaining on the buildings directive. MEPs’ call for all new buildings to produce at least as much energy on site as they use by 2019 is viewed as unrealistic by member states, which are worried that the directive will prove expensive and administratively burdensome to implement.
The Swedish official said the Council talks had so far barely even touched on the issue of zero-energy buildings. “There is no position emerging,” she stated.
Sweden will also have to unravel a political impasse on the energy labelling of appliances so that the Commission can go ahead and adopt new labels. The Parliament effectively blocked the process in May when it refused to endorse a new open-ended energy label for televisions (EURACTIV 07/05/09).
Member states are still divided between the Parliament’s position that the energy label should remain within the closed A-G scale, and the Commission’s proposal to add new ‘A’ categories to avoid upgrading the thresholds for different classes.
Environmental and consumer organisations have sided with the Parliament on the issue, and are now looking to the Swedish Presidency to break the deadlock.
Ambitious national climate agenda
Sweden set itself an ambitious national agenda when it presented its “integrated climate and energy policy” in March. The government pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in sectors that do not participate in the EU emissions trading scheme (EU ETS; see EURACTIV LinksDossier) by 2020, with the aim of becoming completely carbon neutral by mid-century.
To become 20% more energy-efficient by 2020 in line with the non-binding EU target, the Swedish government said it would invest around €27.3 million annually between 2010 and 2020 in implementing energy-efficiency measures.
Priority is given to initiatives that better inform households and businesses of opportunities to save both money and energy. Among other things, the government plans to introduce requirements for electricity and hot water metering in new and renovated buildings, and boost investment in technology in order to facilitate the introduction to the market of energy-efficient technologies.