The UK will not have to meet legally-binding energy-efficiency targets, after EU member states refused to include the measure in the new Energy Efficiency Directive (EED)
In negotiations to agree the final wording of the EED this week, representatives from countries, including the UK, argued against the inclusion of a requirement forcing states to set mandatory national energy savings targets, as had been proposed by the European parliament in February.
The Directive is aimed at ramping up member states’ efforts to cut energy demand, after the European Commission confirmed existing policies would only deliver half the amount of energy savings required under its 20-20-20 goals – to source 20% of energy renewably and cut carbon emissions and energy consumption by 20% by 2020.
The omission of binding targets, and the decision to allow countries to include energy savings made before the introduction of the EED, will mean the 20% energy reduction target will remain out of reach according to the WWF, which has strongly criticised the UK government for undermining the negotiations.
“This unambitious deal shines a light on the UK’s real attitude to energy efficiency,” said Zoe Leader, policy officer at WWF-UK. “Despite plenty of rhetoric from the government on the importance of energy efficiency their position throughout the negotiations has effectively scuppered the potential for real energy savings across Europe.”
However, with the vast majority of member states tabling strong objections to the measure, the introduction of national targets was never likely, according to Fiona Hall, a Liberal Democrat MEP who took part in the negotiations.
“The commission consulted before coming forward with the draft legislation and it got a very clear message from member states that they didn’t want binding targets,” she confirmed. “The UK, along with virtually every other member state, was much more in favour of binding measures, rather than binding targets.”
The agreed version of the Directive, which will be published in the coming weeks, requires national governments to set up an energy saving obligation scheme that will cut energy consumption by the equivalent of 1.5% a year up to 2020; undertake the renovation of public sector buildings; and set up an inventory of energy efficiency data for installations that burn or refine fuels.
It also requires national governments to ensure all large companies undergo independent energy audits in line with ISO 50001 and develop programmes to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to also be audited – potentially including covering part of the costs of audits.
According to Hall the toughest negotiations were related to how long each country would able to count measures from existing policies in their energy saving obligation scheme. The final deal states that no more than 25% of annual energy savings can come from existing measures. In any given year, however, member states can count measures in the previous four years, and for three years afterwards.
“Although the text in Article 6 on the energy efficiency obligation schemes is not as strong as the parliament wanted, it is an important achievement; for the first time, member states will have to have a long-term strategy, with policy and measures in place for dealing with the energy efficiency of their buildings,” explained Hall.
“Thanks to the changes insisted upon by the parliament, the Directive will now achieve 17% of the 20% energy efficiency savings needed by 2020 – as compared to less than 15% before last night.”
One crucial amendment made in the final negotiations, according to Hall, was the insertion of a clause that means all of the measures developed under the Directive will be reviewed in 2016 and, if targets aren’t being reached, new negotiations will be initiated to improve energy savings.
The final wording of the Directive was agreed ahead of an EU Energy Council meeting (15 June) in which ministers are expected to adopt conclusions on the EU Energy Roadmap 2050 which will then pave the way for discussions on the future European energy strategy.