November 8, 2010
Brook Riley, Friends of the Earth Europe writes:
The European Parliament seems set on categorizing energy efficiency as the unglamorous policy that nobody takes seriously. Tomorrow, the Parliament’s Energy Committee (ITRE) will vote on a report on the Energy Efficiency Action Plan – the communication from the European Commission which first proposed a 20% energy savings target for 2020.
The main problem with the Action Plan is that – unlike the renewable energy and CO2 emissions reduction targets – it failed to set mandatory legislation. As a result, Member States have largely ignored the 20% objective.
The ITRE committee report (started in July) was supposed to help change this, highlighting the benefits of energy savings and calling for tougher policies to meet the 2020 target. Instead, we’ve seen dogged efforts from some prominent centre right MEPs (led by the chairman of the ITRE committee, Mr Herbert Reul) to bury recommendations for binding legislation.
Let’s take a look at what they seem so set on turning down. According to a 2008 paper from the Commission, meeting the 20% energy savings target would lead to hundreds of thousands of new jobs (through industrial upgrades, building retrofits), 800 million tons of CO2 reductions (equivalent to 20% cuts below 2005 levels) and over €200 billion annual savings in energy bills between now and 2020. As a comparison, those financial savings add up to more than ten times the amount needed to deliver the 2020 renewable energy target. Meanwhile, cutting down energy requirements would counter the EU’s growing reliance on external energy suppliers. Import dependency currently exceeds 50% of European energy consumption and it makes much better sense to invest in energy savings than in new pipelines from Russia and North Africa.
Clearly, the EU should get serious about meeting the 2020 energy savings target. And while a mandatory target is no golden solution, it shows commitment and encourages investment. Many in the Parliament are aware of this. While ITRE has vacillated, the Parliament’s Environment committee has been bolder. Its opinion report on ITRE’s Energy Efficiency Action Plan (all interested committees have the right to comment) underlines the major economic, social and environmental advantages of energy efficiency. With a majority of 46 to 7, the Environment committee recommended a binding 25% target for 2020.
But a hard core of centre right MEPs in ITRE have other interests to defend. The ITRE chairman, Mr Herbert Reul, supports ongoing reliance on coal based electricity production. Coal, however, is among the most inefficient and polluting power sources, barely transforming a third of the primary resource into electricity. Perhaps because a mandatory savings target would progressively squeeze coal out of Europe’s energy mix, Mr Reul is a staunch opponent of binding energy efficiency legislation.
Similarly, UK conservative and former ITRE chairman Giles Chichester is a vocal supporter of nuclear energy – a power source which is just as inefficient as coal, but with the added risk that no solution has been found for radioactive waste storage. Mr Chichester is also blocking binding legislation.
Faced with such influential opposition, MEPs should consider who really stands to win and lose from a mandatory energy efficiency target. Yes, reducing energy consumption will eat into power company profits. But the rest of the economy will gain: from lower household energy bills to increased industrial competitiveness (as businesses cut their production costs and produce more efficient goods). Tomorrow, the ITRE committee must shrug off pressure from the power sector and vote for mandatory energy savings legislation for 2020.
This post was sent to Blogactiv by Brook Riley, Friends of the Earth Europe.Blogactiv Team