EU winter package is right to put energy efficiency first
The European Commission was right to focus on energy efficiency in its winter package, says Peter Liese.
Peter Liese | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
When discussing citizens' priorities for Europe, one of the things a large majority agrees on is the need for a common approach on energy and climate. This is why it is very important to have a convincing legislative framework, in order to promote safe, cost-efficient and climate-friendly energy supply for all Europeans. The Commission's so-called 'winter package' is an important step in this direction.
In particular, I welcome the proposal on energy efficiency. The Commission has put energy efficiency first, not only in words but also through concrete action. It had the courage to propose a 30 per cent target, instead of the 27 per cent target that was put forward by the member states in 2014.
Energy efficiency is the most cost-efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to decrease our dependency on energy imports. In 2014, the EU spent €358bn per year on energy imports, meaning almost €1bn per day, or more than the total deficit of Greece (€317bn) and almost as much as the total turnover of the German car industry (€367.9bn) in 2014.
This money is not going to countries the EU should be financing. A big part goes to Russia, and another big portion goes to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Considering that wealthy individuals from Saudi Arabia and Qatar are ISIS' main financiers, then are many reasons to invest in technologies and use this money to create jobs and growth in Europe, and not make Putin and the oil sheiks even richer.
A common European approach for energy efficiency is beneficial for industry and consumers, because it brings down costs for the respective products. I am pleased that the European Commission has maintained the directive's structure.
The core is Article 7. It obliges the member states to encourage SMEs and citizens who want to invest in energy efficiency. Even though the title is misleading ('energy savings obligation'), it is about incentives and not about obligations for citizens and SMEs.
I welcome, in particular, that this Article is not limited until 2030, but it will continue to be an element of European energy policy also beyond 2030. This brings long-term security for investment in the area.
The proposal for renewable energies, however, is not as clear. In my view, it needs to be improved in the legislative process. The 27 per cent target is not very ambitious and I am personally not sure that this will make Europe a world leader in renewable energy, as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker promised MEPs in 2014 before his election.
But what is more worrying is that the Commission has not proposed a clear instrument for achieving the 27 per cent European binding target. The current system with national binding targets might not be the best possible, but at least it brings a methodology to achieve a European target. Those that pushed to abolish national binding targets, still have not succeeded in proposing a better system.
One alternative could be to have national indicative targets or benchmarks and an assessment by the European Commission, if the national eff orts will bring us to the European target. If not, we could introduce a European support system, where those member states contribute, that do not fulfil their benchmark or indicative target.
In the field of renewable energy, we definitely need more European cooperation. This will bring costs down for consumers and industry and it will reduce our dependency.
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