EU countries reach provisional agreement on energy savings
Europe’s 27 energy ministers will seek to formalize an agreement in principle on the energy efficiency directive when they meet on Monday 27 June, paving the way for the first-ever legally binding target to increase energy savings. energy in Europe.
Ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday and Tuesday (June 27 and 28) to finalize as much of the EU’s climate package as possible, including laws on renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon pricing and climate change. land and forest use.
At a meeting on Wednesday June 22, national representatives made significant progress towards an agreement on the energy efficiency directive, which it is hoped will be formally adopted by EU energy ministers Monday, although that is not certain.
“There is still an ongoing discussion about the EU’s overall energy efficiency targets. And unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult to predict how the discussion will go tomorrow and what will be on the table at the end.”said a European diplomat.
A provisional agreement
The energy efficiency directive has been improved from the previous version, according to Brook Riley, European affairs manager at Rockwool, one of the leaders in insulation.
This time it should include a binding target for increasing energy efficiency and a mechanism developed by the European Commission and the French Presidency to ensure that the EU stays on track to achieve it.
“When you think about it, it’s a big step up from the last energy efficiency directive where you had an indicative target and no delivery mechanism at all”Mr Riley told EURACTIV.
There will be a binding target, but the exact figure will be decided during negotiations with the European Parliament. The only certainty is that it will not fall below the 9% initially proposed by the European Commission for the year 2030.
However, the agreement in principle reached on Wednesday (June 22) also contains some watered-down elements.
First, the primary energy consumption target — that is, the amount of energy that goes into the process of generating, converting and transmitting energy before reaching the final consumer — will be indicative, and therefore non-binding for EU Member States.
This means that only the final energy consumption target — the amount of energy consumed by the end consumer or application — will be retained as a legally binding target for 2030.
“Abandoning a binding primary energy target means energy conversion losses are kind of off the balance sheet — they don’t matter”explained Mr. Riley.
“As you can imagine, this suits countries that use nuclear, it reassures those with big plans for hydrogen, and it means others can develop coal as a stopgap to energy security.”he added.
The proposal to drop the binding target for primary energy consumption was a last-minute addition from Spain, EURACTIV understands. It was later accepted by other EU countries, although many had already accepted the primary objective — such as Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany , Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Slovenia.
In the end, most of the national representatives rallied to the Spanish idea, with the exception of Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The absence of binding targets for primary energy consumption would benefit inefficient energy production methods such as hydrogen, which lead to considerable energy conversion losses. It would also make other energy sources, such as nuclear power and coal, seem more efficient than they actually are.
“Member States have agreed that they need to promote efficient end-use of energy — that’s a good thing, it means a focus on residential, industrial transport services”explained Mr. Riley.
“But there is no obligation to make the production process more efficient”he added. “The danger is that, in all this push towards electrification, the efficient use of resources and the efficient production of energy do not matter much”he warned.
There are also concerns that a separate target to renovate 3% of buildings occupied by public bodies each year has been watered down. Under the provisional deal reached on Wednesday, this requirement would exclude social housing and reintroduce an alternative, more flexible approach to fulfilling this obligation.
“While past energy conservation timidity is one of the root causes of today’s energy security crisis, energy ministers risk repeating the same old mistake of not giving enough priority to energy efficiency »said Arianna Vitali, secretary general of the Coalition for Energy Conservation, a multi-stakeholder platform bringing together civil society and industry groups.
“The European Parliament, on the contrary, is moving towards a reinforcement of the Commission’s proposal on the Energy Efficiency Directive in order to reduce fossil fuel imports, energy bills and emissions”she added.
The coalition also highlighted the positive elements that reinforce the directive, including a mechanism to ensure that EU countries collectively meet their final energy consumption target.
Although national contributions to the EU target are not binding, the European Commission will use a formula to determine which countries have achieved their fair share.
If collective contributions fall short of the target set at EU level, countries that have not offered a fair share will have to fill the gap.
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