Commission ‘pre-emptive strike’ puts cap on EU energy efficiency targets

Claude Turmes branded the Commission's impact study a "pre-emptive strike". [EWEA/Flickr]

EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission’s decision to effectively cap any increase to the EU’s energy efficiency targets was branded a “pre-emptive strike” today (18 November) against the European Parliament, which would curb any effort by MEPs to boost the 2030 goals.

Officials drafting preparatory work on legislation to revise the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive are working on an impact assessment study, research estimating the effect of different target levels. 

EURACTIV has learnt the Commission will analyse no greater increase in efficiency than 33%.

Such impact assessments are increasingly a precondition for EU law to be approved by legislators. As part of its better regulation strategy, the executive is pushing for any significant amendment to a bill by MEPs to be impact-assessed.

Claude Turmes, a Green MEP, is campaigning for a 40% increase. He said, “This constitutes a pre-emptive strike aiming at weakening the credibility of the Parliament. This is not acceptable.“

“This amounts to a deliberate slap in the face to MEPs and cuts off their power to push for tougher action at the knees,” said Brook Riley, of Friends of the Earth Europe.

EU leaders agreed in October 2014 to a hike of at least 27% in efficiency by 2030. The Commission had originally wanted a 30% increase, which was watered down in the European Council, and will likely push for 30% in the new legislation.

>>Read: EU leader adopt flexible energy and climate targets

The revised Energy Efficiency directive can only become law once an identical text is agreed by both Council and the European Parliament.

The European Parliament backed a 40% 2030 target in an October 2015 resolution about the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris.

It was a reiteration of support for an earlier February 2014 resolution supporting stronger targets. The 2030 targets are the basis of the EU’s negotiating position in the COP21 talks to cap global warming at two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

A push to boost the target and make it legally binding was defeated in the Parliament’s energy committee on 10 November, but supporters are bullish that will be overturned on 15 December in a plenary vote.

>>Read: MEPs fail to boost EU renewables, efficiency targets before COP21

Turmes, who is from Luxembourg, said, “The Commission needs to model a broad range of options to allow a democratic debate to take place transparently assessing real cost and benefits for all of them.”

The lawamker said that refusing to model the 40% would prejudge the outcome of the co-decision procedure by the EU Council and Parliament, and that it would be a “provocation”.

“It goes in complete contradiction to the Energy Union’s ambitions to put ‘efficiency first’ and against the principle of mutual respect between both institution,” he added.

Maroš Šef?ovi?, the Commission Vice-President in charge of Energy Union, today launched a report on the flagship strategy to fight climate change and make the EU less dependent on energy imports.

The State of the Energy Union report highlights the important role of energy efficiency in reducing emission and bolstering energy security.

Šef?ovi? has spoken of putting “efficiency first” in the strategy, a response to possible shortages caused by Russia stopping gas supplies transiting through Ukraine.

>>Read: Commission outlines Energy Union legislative path

Friends of the Earth’s Riley said Commission analysis last year had predicted major increases in jobs, GDP, energy security and greenhouse gas cuts with a 40% efficiency target.

“It’s incomprehensible to now artificially cap efficiency by refusing to consider anything more than 33%,” he said.

He called on both Šef?ovi? and Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete to urgently intervene in the controversy.

Campaigners added that only modelling for a maximum of 33% would weaken the Commission’s hand in negotiations with the Council.

To get national governments to agree to 30%, it would have to start from a higher bargaining position than 33%, they warned. The executive also rarely proposes its most ambitious modelling scenario becomes law.

In response to a request for comment, the Commission said it was currently assessing how the modelling for the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive could be done in 2016. The concrete modelling work on energy efficiency scenarios will start in the beginning of 2016, the executive said. 

EU leaders have agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2030. But heads of state and government watered down the 2030 targets for renewables and for energy efficiency, which are not binding at national level. They lowered a European Commission-proposed 30% increase to at least 27%. That was seen as a backwards step after the binding 20% 2020 targets for efficiency and renewables agreed in the past.

The 2030 targets were a signal of intent before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21). They form the basis of the EU's negotiating position at the COP21 in Paris, which will try and agree an international deal to cap global warming. Depending on the results of the COP21, the Commission and Council could revise the 2030 targets.

The Energy Union is part of the political response to the threat to EU gas supplies. The majority of Russian gas imports to the EU, about 30% of its annual needs, goes through Ukraine. In 2009, Russia turned off the taps, causing shortages in the EU.

Plans for the Union have developed beyond questions of security of supply to encompass issues such as fighting climate change. 

The European Union's Energy Efficiency Directive in late 2012 was expected to trigger the largest revamp of Europe's existing building stock to date and set new standards for public procurement and energy audits. But implementation of the rules at national level has been poor. The EED is as close as the EU comes to an EU-wide energy efficiency strategy anchored by legislation. It is earmarked to be revamped. 

  • 30 November: Start of COP21
  • 15 December: Plenary vote on Energy Union report

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