Europe must 'signal willingness' to lead on energy efficiency

Written by Monica Frassoni on 29 July 2014 in News
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EU must increase its 'competitiveness' by promoting 'greater energy efficiency', argues Monica Frassoni.

The European commission appears to have lost credibility. Its supposedly leading role aiming to build a low carbon economy around an energy efficiency target shows an obvious lack of ambition in the final proposal. The proposal is clearly not based on a real scientific assessment and a serious cost-benefit analysis, otherwise a target between 35 per cent and 40 per cent would have been proposed.

The commission has clearly ignored the emphasis of the International Energy Agency on energy efficiency as Europe's first fuel. Instead it appears to have taken the route of least resistance in proposing a more regressive approach which focuses on the costs and not the multiple collective benefits of a common EU wide energy efficiency framework.

Delivering energy efficiency will have a upfront cost of investment - but this will be offset by returns in the form of energy savings worth between €1 - €2 trillion during the period 2020 to 2030. It will then deliver significant co-benefits that must be taken into account when considering the role of energy efficiency in the 2030 climate and energy package.

What the commission proposed is not cost-effective and will prolong Europe's dependency on fuel imports from Russia and other unreliable exporters.

A 40 per cent final energy saving target (equivalent to 500 megatonnes by 2030), combined with a new suite of measures to unlock demand, would reduce our gas imports by 33 to 40 per cent and oil by 18 to 19 per cent. This would translate into 767,000 new jobs, and savings of between €505 and €552bn on imports from 2011 to 2030.

A very recent Ecofys analysis showed German imports of Russian gas could be cost-effectively cut in half in 10 years through increasing efficiency measures deployed in industry and housing.

With average electricity and gas prices having increased across Europe by more than 30 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, in the past 10 years more needs to be done to manage their impact on competitiveness. The best way to achieve this is through promoting greater energy efficiency, which allows energy intensive and non-energy intensive industries to produce more using lowered energy inputs, thus managing overall costs.

"The ball is now in the court of the European council and the Italian EU presidency. They must act decisively and with a unified voice"

A package that includes a strong role for energy efficiency has a higher positive GDP impact than one without. A 40 per cent energy efficiency target also creates the option to revisit headline ambition in the greenhouse gas target.

The ball is now in the court of the European council and the Italian EU presidency. They must act decisively and with a unified voice. We cannot send the signal that Europe is unwilling to lead on energy efficiency, and happy to play a second-tier role in geopolitics in the future.

Europe needs to signal its willingness to take a leadership role coming into COP21 in Paris – this proposal goes contrary to this.

"Incoming commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has already signalled significantly greater ambition on energy efficiency and we hope that he and EU governments will pursue this approach for the EU's 2030 policy and not the 'business-as-usual' policy being outlined with the proposal"

Incoming commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has already signalled significantly greater ambition on energy efficiency and we hope that he and EU governments will pursue this approach for the EU's 2030 policy and not the 'business-as-usual' policy being outlined with the proposal.

Efforts to safeguard peace and prosperity in the region need to be redoubled if we are to maintain the European growth model. A key element in securing this lies in Europe’s decision on its framework for action on climate change and direction on energy policy to 2030. Concern about tackling climate change, while driving future competitiveness, security, growth and employment, is high.

In the face of such apparently competing demands there is one solution that stands out: the use of less energy. A strong Europe is a resource-efficient Europe; the best response to the current climate and energy security challenges is to do more with less.

About the author

Monica Frassoni is president of the European alliance to save energy (EU-ASE)

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