Energy Efficiency, Policy Problem Child No.1

20% reduction of greenhouse gases until 2020 – We’re on the right track.
20% renewable energy – Almost there.
More than likely, the two first of the three 20-20-20 EU objectives will be achieved. But there is a third one.

20% reduction of energy consumptionOuch!

Accomplishing 20-20-20 Objectives by 2/3

In reference to the year 1990, all of the 27 EU member states want to reduce their energy consumption by 20% until 2020. But the current trend for 2020 promises a reduction of only 10%. Well, let’s begin with the facts, the good facts first. We can expect an overall GHG reduction of 20% in Europe. Greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by 17,6% from 1990 to 2009 already. The share of renewable energy is constantly growing in the EU, increasing from 5.4% in 1999 to 9.4% in 2009. The general increase of awareness in the course of the Fukushima incident is very likely to result in an ongoing trend towards a significant renewable energy production augmentation. Yesterday, Germany announced a 20.8% share of renewables for the first half of 2011. Several European countries exceeded the 20% goal in 2009 already. Portugal with a 19.9% share is almost done. Finland (23.8), Austria (28.5), Sweden (37.3) and Latvia (38.4), too.

Energy Efficiency Directive

Then again, there is the third objective. Energy consumption reduction. Because that sounds complicated and odd, there is a much more sleeve-uprolling term. Energy efficiency. Much better. Back to the EU: Trying to match all three of the 20-20-20 goals for 2020, the European Commission launched an energy efficiency directive in June.

This directive was mainly ignored by the public, but there was some slight appreciation. E.g. the annual 3% reduction target for public buildings, the obligation for energy meters in households, and more frequent billing based on actual consumption (aiming at a smart grid, in the long run) were received positively.

Measures not sufficient

Some issues, however, were subject to discussion. The most striking of these issues is waste-to-energy. CEWEP, a confederation of waste plants, welcomed the new directive in a press release, claiming waste-to-energy to be a 50% renewable, reliable and locally available energy source. UK’s Combined Heat & Power Association sees “a clear step in the right direction” but questions “whether the measures set out in the Directive on their own will be sufficient”.

Some harsher criticizm comes from the spheres of the NGOs. WWF’s Policy Officer for Energy Conservation, Arianna Vitali Roscini, voices concerns on the energy efficiency directive not being binding:

While two of the three 2020 targets of the 2008 climate package, the GHG emission reduction and renewables targets, are binding, the 20% energy savings target is still not.  This has led to a lack of assigned responsibilities and ownership among policy-makers at the EU and national levels and, as a result, energy efficiency policy is lagging behind and the target is likely to be missed

Furthermore, she criticizes the building renovation efforts, requiring a stricter and clearer renovation goal she calls “deep refurbishing”. The directive’s opt-out clause also raises concerns:

This clause allows Member States to put alternative measures in place that ensure an equivalent level of savings, once the measures have been communicated to and approved by the Commission.

But, all in all, WWF sees the EED in a positive light, calling it a “unique opportunity to improve EU energy legislation”. “There will be opportunities to improve the proposal before its adoption”. Improvements call for “a binding target for energy savings, increased deep renovation rates for existing residential and public buildings, and stringent national energy efficiency schemes”.

Whatever the policy may be, one thing is clear: It is vital to take energy efficiency measures, better sooner than later.

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