MEPs back national energy efficiency targets

29th February 2012


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EU member states will have to set national goals on reducing energy use under the proposed Energy Efficiency Directive, after MEPs voted in favour of amending its requirements

The European parliament’s energy committee approved 14 changes to the draft Directive, including introducing legally-binding energy-efficiency targets for each country, requiring governments to improve the energy performance of public buildings and mandating energy audits for large companies.

The EU has a bloc-wide target of reducing total energy consumption by 20% by 2020, as a part of its wider carbon-reduction strategy, but the European Commission has confirmed that without greater action by member states to encourage efficiency the EU will only achieve a 10% cut.

Alongside setting and meeting national targets, under the new requirements government’s will be required to begin refurbishing 2.5% of large public buildings by January 2014 and ensuring public procurement processes incorporate energy performance requirements.

In the private sector, energy companies will have to help customers achieve energy savings that equal at least 1.5% of total energy sales, while large enterprises will have to undergo energy audits every four years from July 2014.

The committee also reacted to concerns raised by energy company SSE last year that the Directive could damage the effectiveness of the EU emissions trading scheme. It warned the Directive could increase the number of surplus allowances further lowering the price of the carbon permits, which dropped by almost 50% in 2011.

In response MEPs recommended the commission consider amending the scheme before the start of the third phase (starting in 2013), “which may include withholding of the necessary amount of allowances”.

While members of the EU Corporate Leaders Group, including Kingfisher, Shell and Tesco, wrote to the president of the EC in January recommending that permits are withheld, the committee’s support for the proposal has not been welcomed by manufacturing body EEF.

“Alongside not supporting any set aside of EU allowances, we feel strongly that the commission should not use a proposed Directive to alter an existing one,” said Gareth Stace, EEF’s head of environment policy. “Changes to the ETS Directive should be carried out as party of a wholescale revision of the Directive.”

The committee’s approval of the tougher requirements, follows a report from UK environment academics that labelled EU energy-efficiency policy as “lamentably inadequate” and lacked the necessary financial and political support to be effective.

Claude Turmes, MEP for Luxembourg’s Green Party, said the committee’s backing of the changes was “a major sign that the EU parliament … takes rising energy costs and energy poverty seriously”.

The amended Directive will now be examined by the European Council, a negotiation process that is likely to take several months, before the EU parliament vote on whether it should become law.

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