Alan Whitehead MP argues that the government should not disrupt EU plans to improve energy efficiency
There’s something the UK has almost perfected – that is the art of studiously ignoring anything going through the European legislative process until the day a completed Directive lands on our national doormat, and then screaming very loudly that it should never have been done in this way in the first place.
But something’s stirring in the woods. Yes, the UK government is intervening early, before the usual last-minute screaming – only, on this occasion, I happen to think on possibly the wrong side.
The legislation in question is the proposed Energy Efficiency Directive, which seeks to remedy problems with the so-called 20-20-20 targets: an EU-wide target to source 20% of electricity from renewable energy by 2020 (the UK share target is 15%); reduce energy use by 20%; and have a 20% increase in energy efficiency. Except, on the last one, we didn’t agree a target, rather an aspiration, which, on present measures, will be woefully undershot.
The Directive aims to ensure that a targeted amount of floorspace “owned by public bodies” is renovated to a high energy-efficiency standard each year; that all energy distributors achieve annual energy savings of 1.5%; and that new power stations are highly energy efficient when commissioned. It’s important the Directive becomes EU law intact, because Europe, and particularly the UK, is still in the foothills as far as energy efficiency is concerned.
So what is the UK government doing on this? Right now, it seems to be facing two ways: welcoming the Directive and supporting it in general, but seeking to dilute and downgrade its requirements privately. That, I think, is quite a dangerous game, because there are a number of member states that would like to see the back of the Directive.
I hope UK ambivalence isn’t seen as a green light for these countries: it’s time we came out firmly on the side of those who want it to happen.