EU Commission prioritises efficiency in new energy plan

The European Commission has published a new 1,000-page strategy, intended to deliver “A Clean Energy Package for Europeans”. Launching it, Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete (right) began by deliberately insisting: ”Let me start with energy efficiency first.”

He continued: “I am particularly proud that we are proposing a binding 30 per cent energy efficiency target for 2030, up from the current indicative target of at least 27 per cent”. During earlier negotiations, the UK government had insisted both on the lower target, and that it was not legally binding (see EiBI Nov 2014).

Many other governments – including Germany, Denmark and France – had always sought a more ambitious and legally enforceable target, including designated national contributions towards the total. While the UK intends to be “fully involved” with negotiations, those in the other 27 member countries are confident that – once having begun the Brexit process this March – its ability to influence others to follow its more timid approach will be very limited.

The European Parliament had voted to instruct the Commission to examine the likely impact of a 40 per cent reduction target between 1995 and 2030. Significantly the formal impact assessment has demonstrated clearly that in terms of making an impact a 40 per cent reduction target would be significantly more effective.

The Brussels-based Coalition for Energy Savings said: “Every additional 1 per cent of energy savings could be taking 7m people out of fuel poverty, securing 500,000 local jobs.”

Although six of the eight dossiers in the package cover energy production, Cañete’s declared “priority” has been taken up by the European Council, representing national governments. Malta, which assumed the Council of Ministers’ six-month presidency this month, is fast-tracking the Commission’s proposals to strengthen two existing directives concerning energy saving. These are the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and the Energy Efficiency Directive.

The present timetable projects agreement upon the new texts by the end of 2017. At this point, the UK will still be a formal member of the European Union. Consequently even when Brexit is completed, it should be the more ambitious texts and national objectives that will be automatically transferred into UK law – at least, initially.

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