The Guest Blog

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.

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  1. Nicely said! It is agreed that there is a tremendous amount that can be done here and it need not be that difficult.

    Here are some primitive examples which I believe could be useful in the corporate collective areas.

    1] Electrical Companies at large….

    Reduce the distributional losses. I have been looking at these with a colleague across some of the smaller states and read that 16% is about the normal average losses between the generation facilities – Power Stations – and the end user.

    Lets go for a uniform TARGET across the EU of say a maximum of 7.5%!

    Do-able definitely for we have the mechanisms to load-shunt and share and even reconsider whether we should harminise pf corrections.

    2] Water supplies and Power uses at source…

    Lets see if the 30 to 40% wastage rates we hear about across France Spain the UK and Ireland as being the “average” are really necessary. If we just look at the issues of where the energy goes in both treating storing and delivering the water through the reticulation system then it has to be said that this must account for well over half the total of the costs to supply such water and – inter alia – I suggest that this may represent up to 10% of the total energy needs of a country – more in some of the hotter countries!

    Lets then suggest that we TARGET across the EU a uniform reduction in the total losses of treated water to say – a third of the current losses within the same time frame. And lets make these real reductions (and not the fanciful ones we were used to hearing of in France or Spain or Italy or Greece or Cyprus or Malta etc. for that matter.) If this was practiced univerally across the EU it woul equally add to the total in Energy Efficiency/limitinh wastage.

    3] What about reducing the water pressure to the system in out-of-hours usage? Do we really need to have a 15 metre residual head at all times during day and night? I think not!

    4] We are so used to seeing many of our industrial and shopping complex building running electrical machimery for 24 hours a day irrespective of occupancy and hear all this nonsense about “its cheaper than switching them on and off” to find out that this is also a nonsense. It should be made mandatory for unoccupied premises to have their power systems shut down and shed out of houirs. Look at Disney Land in Paris, or the major shopping complexes at the Trafford Centre in Manchester as typical examples. What a waste of enerfgy they incur: it can be donne and it need not incur extra costs.

    I am sure there are more to look at so let everyone else have a go.

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