The European Union
has agreed its first legally binding energy efficiency targets, with the aim of delivering a 17 per cent cut in energy consumption across member states by 2020.
A new Energy Efficiency Directive sponsored by the Danish presidency of the Council of Ministers includes an obligation on energy companies to help their customers with the installation of insulation and energy-efficient appliances. Energy suppliers will also have to improve their energy efficiency by just over one per cent a year from 2014 to 2020, and EU member states will have to prepare plans to boost the energy efficiency of existing commercial, residential, and public buildings by 2050.
Although the directive has been widely welcomed by green groups, there has been some disappointment that the expected 17 per cent cut in energy consumption by 2020 falls short of the 20 per cent initially proposed by Denmark. The UK government has largely been blamed for this, as it lobbied hard to reduce the target levels.
Nonetheless, Martin Lidegaard, Denmark's energy and climate minister, said the measure was ‘a big step towards a more sustainable energy future.’ He pointed out that it would be a significant improvement on current non-binding EU targets, which were expected to result only in a 9-10 per cent reduction in energy use by the end of the decade.
‘It’s only 17 per cent because that was what was possible to get,’ said Lidegaard. ‘We fought like lions. We started at 13 per cent, and now we have 17 per cent, and that is actually something we are proud of.’
Dave Timms, energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the directive was an improvement on the current situation, although he complained that it ‘falls short of the huge stride a strong treaty would have brought’.
The directive still needs the approval of the European Parliament in September, although that is expected to be a formality. The measure will not introduce mandatory national targets for each EU country, but will instead aim for a 17 per cent cut in energy consumption across the continent. However, member states could eventually face mandatory national targets should their progress be deemed insufficient at the midway point towards 2020.