Denmark, Ireland and Croatia praised for efficiency measures, but others falling short
By Gerard Wynn
Only three European Union member states have made sufficient steps to meet annual energy savings targets under the bloc’s recent revised efficiency law, a report found on Wednesday.
The findings followed a warning by the EU’s executive that more than half of the 28 member states had failed to adopt efficiency standards for buildings, under an additional, buildings performance law.
Under the Energy Efficiency Directive, countries have to achieve energy savings equivalent to 1.5 percent of annual consumption from 2014 to 2020.
EU countries have until the end of this month to show how they intend to achieve the goal, under their National Energy Efficiency Action Plans.
Many have opted to require electricity utilities to make the savings, for example by upgrading home insulation and passing the extra costs to energy consumers.
Most EU countries would fail to meet the target, the Coalition for Energy Savings said in a report published on Wednesday.
“Only three plans, Denmark, Ireland and Croatia, out of the 27 published, provide a credible and meaningful case for how the governments will achieve their savings targets,” the lobby group said.
“Overall, the plans are a weak start for implementation. A lot more needs to be done rapidly to ensure commitments to energy efficiency are honoured and legal requirements are respected.”
“The most common problems concern incorrect calculation of the savings target; eligibility of measures, in particular, energy taxation; additionality of the savings (such as savings from buildings standards which may not be above the EU minimum requirements); and double counting of the same savings resulting from different measures.”
The Energy Efficiency Directive has set an overall, non-binding target for the bloc to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
The European Commission may make recommendations for additional targets through 2030, in a review of the present directive which it is due to publish in June.
Efficiency has acquired extra significance in the wake of the Ukraine crisis, which has shown how energy-dependent the EU is on Russia.
The EU does not have access to the fossil fuel resources of economic rivals including the United States and China. In 2012, its oil and gas import bill was more than €400 billion, far exceeding China and the United States. The International Energy Agency projects rising import dependency.
Wednesday’s report came the day after an announcement by the European Commission that it was taking Belgium and Finland to court over their failure to adopt into national law measures under the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.
Under the EU law, member states had to establish and apply minimum energy performance requirements for all buildings; ensure the certification of buildings’ energy performance; and require the regular inspection of heating and air conditioning systems.
In addition, the directive requires that Member States ensure that all new buildings are so-called nearly zero-energy buildings by 2021.
“Using less energy is paramount for ensuring security of supply in Europe,” said Günther Oettinger, the EU Energy Commissioner.
“40% of EU energy consumption is in the buildings’ sector and it is here where the most energy can be saved.”
In addition to Belgium and Finland, the Commission said that it had concerns over the implementation of the buildings directive by another 13 EU countries.