Winter Package: Smart Finance initiative set to trigger more private investment in energy efficiency sector

Written by Martin Banks on 30 November 2016 in News

The European Commission is set to make it easier to invest in energy efficiency.

From L to R: Keynote speakers at the E.on/Parliament Magazine breakfast briefing on the revision of the energy efficiency package, Member of the board of E.on, Dr Leonhard Birnbaum, Director DG Energy at the European Commission, Marie Donnelly, S&D MEP Martina Werner and policy officer for transport, telecommunications and energy at the Permanent Representation of Malta to the EU, Clive Gerada  | Photo credit: The Parliament Magazine

Speaking on Tuesday on the eve of its publication, a senior Commission official said the “Smart Finance for Smart Buildings” initiative aims to trigger more private investment in the energy efficiency sector.

“This will provide an economic boost for the EU and will deliver direct benefits to our citizens,” said Marie Donnelly, director of the European Commission’s energy directorate.

Donnelly was speaking at a breakfast roundtable discussion on the winter package which will be formally published on Wednesday.

The debate in the European parliament was jointly organised by leading energy company E.ON and The Parliament Magazine.


The upcoming winter package will include eight legislative proposals and includes a review of both the energy efficiency directive and the energy performance of buildings directive. It is designed to shape EU energy policies beyond 2020.

Donnelly, one of the keynote speakers at the roundtable debate, accepted that access to financing for energy efficiency initiatives was an obstacle for many people and small companies.

She said the financing initiative is designed to “encourage better use of public funds” by helping project developers “bring good project ideas to maturity and making the energy efficiency market more trusted and attractive” for financiers and investors.

The package, she revealed, will also contain several measures that aim to promote investment in innovative “smart” technologies.

“There are a number of changes aimed at more automation and monitoring and more broadly ‘smartness’ in buildings, particularly in commercial buildings, but also elsewhere.”
Donnelly added, “These activities will indirectly support our work to fight against energy poverty. The use of more financial instruments will, for example, lead to more public resources being available for vulnerable customers in the form of subsidies and grants.”

Another speaker, Dr Leonhard Birnbaum, a member of the E.ON board, welcomed the EU’s climate goals but asked, “How do we go about achieving these?”

He went on, “To achieve the complete decarbonisation of energy, there are only two things we can make adjustments to: production and consumption. “The EU has decided to tackle both.”

Energy efficiency, “if done correctly,” presents a “remarkable” economic recovery plan for the EU, said Birnbaum.

“First, higher energy efficiency reduces energy costs for businesses and consumers and, secondly, it gives rise to a new growth market for efficiency products and services.”

Explaining, Birnbaum told the Parliament Magazine that E.ON believes that an efficiency target of at least the 30 per cent proposed by the Commission is reasonable, because a higher target increases the overall market for efficiency services.

“A goal of over 30 per cent, by contrast, would sustain current momentum and provide additional incentives for new energy efficiency projects.”

“Therefore E.ON would prefer binding targets but no binding measures meaning high flexibility for EU member states to implement, and for markets to deliver, on the targets.”

He said research showed that if fully exploited, there were significant gains to be had from increased energy efficiency.

Birnbaum cited the example of Schütte, a family run German SME and typical of the type of company E.ON normally deals with.

“We planned, constructed, financed and took responsibility for operating an integrated, high efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning system,” he told the packed audience, comprising MEPs, industry experts and stakeholders.

“All facilities were connected to the E.ON remote control centres and the result has been impressive: savings in energy costs of 47 per cent.”

However, he said the market would “work even better” if customers could draw on “straightforward” private funding.

German Socialist MEP Martina Werner, who opened and moderated the debate, said energy efficiency is of “high potential” not only for cutting bills and ensuring energy security but also for boosting Europe’s economic competitiveness.

She said that the Commission’s 30 per cent binding energy efficiency target should be the minimum aim, in order for the EU “to be credible.”

“A binding 40 per cent target towards 2030, as called for by the European Parliament, should be achievable,” added the deputy, a member of the Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee.

She added, “For energy efficiency we also have to address the development and implementation of new technologies such as smart meters.”

Outlining some of the energy priorities of Malta’s EU presidency, which starts on 1 January, Clive Gerada, of the country’s Permanent Representation to the EU, said it was gearing up to handle the “storm” of legislative proposals to be unveiled through the winter package.

He said, “This year is the year of delivery for the European Commission and we envisage our presidency will be very challenging.”

Gerada, a policy officer in the transport, telecoms and energy unit, added that the winter package will contribute towards creating a “new momentum” towards a “low carbon, secure and competitive economy.”

Looking towards its six-month term, he pledged, “The Maltese presidency will put particular emphasis on the energy efficiency package."

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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