The European Parliament's environment committee has thrown its weight behind binding energy efficiency targets for member states in a vote held yesterday (20 December). However, there it little chance that these will survive in later versions of the draft energy efficiency directive, EURACTIV was told.
The report amended by the Parliament's environment committee sets out a binding energy savings target of 20% for EU countries as a whole.
But this amendment might not pass a subsequent vote in the industry committee in January as MEPs are deeply divided over whether to set binding targets that give countries the option on how to achieve them, or legally binding measures.
Czech MEP Pavel Poc, who follows the directive for the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), said his group would support the binding target and that “hopefully it will pass”. “As I follow discussions behind the scene, political groups in [industry committee] have very different positions on the directive, so I do not dare to guess,” Poc told EURACTIV.
“It should be without doubt that we must achieve the target,” said MEP Peter Liese (European People's Party, Germany), the rapporteur for the environment committee on the bill, adding that what is important is the absolute reduction of energy consumption.
Binding measures or binding targets?
But divisions persist on how to achieve those targets.
“The idea of the directive is to propose binding measures and not binding targets," said Bendt Bendtsen, a Danish conservative MEP (European People's Party). "I support the logic that you do one or the other. Some people want binding measures and binding targets, and some want none of the two,” he told EURACTIV.
British MEP Fiona Hall (Liberal-Democrats) said “it is well desirable to give member states more flexibility," something which rules out prescriptive binding measures.
Brook Riley, of Friends of the Earth Europe, said some MEPs are now considering replacing the 20% energy savings target with a 20% improvement in energy intensity. This would mean total energy consumption could continue growing with economic activity, but at a lower rate.
“That is bad, it is completely contrary to the goals of the energy efficiency directive,” Riley said.
Financing the ambitions
A majority of EU countries seem to like the idea of a facility that would fund investments on energy efficiency, but they want this to remain optional, EURACTIV has learned.
In his draft report for the Parliament's industry committee, MEP Claude Turmes (Greens, Luxembourg), the lead negotiator for the European Parliament, says member states "shall" implement financial facilities.
However, this is proving too prescriptive for some. “There is a lot of support to replace ‘shall’ with ‘may’,” Riley said.
“That report provided a good hook and will reaffirm that the Parliament is generally in favour of the directive,” said Samuel Flückiger of the European Climate Foundation. Indeed, most of the signatories of yesterday’s opinion report are members of the European People’s Party, which is the most divided of all political groups on whether to make efficiency measures legally binding.
Still, some fear that “it might take 2-3 years before a decision is made”, judging by how long it took to implement this directive’s predecessor, the Energy Services Directive.
Member states want flexibility
Liese said most countries are asking: “How can we dilute the Commission proposal? We have made it more flexible, but at the same time we are not willing to lower the ambition.”
Germany already has a government-approved strategy for the energy sector until 2050, the "Energy Concept", which envisages savings of up to 90%. But there is still debate on how to implement the strategy, explaining the confusion around Germany’s position on the energy efficiency directive, EURACTIV understands.
In France, the government wants to be able to account for existing savings obligations, so they will be weary of accepting different measures to the ones they already have, said an EU source.
The UK is also unlikely to accept “any binding measures coming from the EU right now,” because of the increasing eurosceptic sentiment at national level.
MEP Claude Turmes, lead industry committee negotiator for the directive, is seen as “an ambitious negotiator” and so is the incoming Danish presidency, which has the cleanest environmental record in the EU.
“Will they manage to deliver? We will see,” an expert close to the negotiations told EURACTIV.