Brussels gets tough on energy efficiency

France has been told to improve the security of its nuclear waste treatment. [Creativemarc/Shutterstock]

The European Commission announced seven new infringement decisions against member states on Thursday (19 November). France has been penalised for its failings in energy efficiency and the treatment of radioactive waste. Our partner Journal de l’Environnement reports

Brussels has ordered France and the Netherlands to fully transpose the 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive.

This text contains energy efficiency obligations and incentives to encourage states to reduce their energy consumption between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2020. It aims “to drive energy efficiency improvements in households, buildings, industry buildings and transport”, according to a European Commission press release.

For the European executive, the efforts of Paris and Amsterdam in this regard have been below par. France and the Netherlands will now have two months to fall into line or face financial sanctions and an appearance before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

One directive, 28 letters of formal notice

Athens has also been summoned by the CJEU. Greece is accused of having forgotten to set minimum standards for energy efficiency in buildings (the famous “cost-optimal levels of minimum energy performance”, in Brussels jargon).

This essential mechanism allows regulators to assess the performance of renewable energies and energy savings measures against primary energy performance and costs, whilst taking into account the life-span of the building. It also allows the Commission to ensure that member states have similar levels of ambition.

>> Read: New energy efficiency rules for public buildings risk being ignored

The Energy Efficiency Directive is one of the EU’s most violated laws. According to the summary published by Brussels, infringement notices have been delivered to all 28 member states since July 2014, including 22 reasoned opinions and two referrals to the CJEU.

France received its second reasoned opinion on Thursday (19 November), for its inadequate transposition of the 2011 Directive on radioactive waste. Paris has two months to bring its minimum security standards for the treatment of spent nuclear fuel up to the required standard.

Court summons for Greece and Romania

Both Greece and Romania have also been issued with summons by the CJEU: Athens for its treatment of waste water and Bucarest for the sulphur content of maritime fuel.

The CJEU had already punished Greece for the inadequate treatment of waste water released into the Gulf of Elefsina in 2004. 11 years later, only 28% of the water released into the gulf is correctly treated.

This risk to human health, coastal waters and the marine environment has landed Greece with a fine of €15.9 million, as well as a daily non-payment penalty of €34,974.

>> Read: Member states face legal action over energy efficiency

Poland was also the object of a reasoned opinion for its failure to correctly apply the 2000 Water Framework Directive. Among the problems highlighted by Brussels were “the designation of heavily modified water bodies, classification system for artificial and heavily modified water bodies, maintenance works carried out on a large scale on rivers, and exemptions at water body level to the environmental objectives of achieving good status by 2015”. 

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