Today the European Commission announced its decision to implement an EU 30% energy efficiency target for 2030.
Published in the Energy Efficiency Communication, the Commission states the target will produce new opportunities for European businesses, affordable energy bills and increased energy security, reducing natural gas imports and helping the environment.
It is hoped that the 2030 framework will make the European Union’s economy and energy systems more competitive, secure and sustainable. Reduce energy bills and create new local jobs.
The Commission has claimed about €465 per household can be saved on energy bills by 2020 with more efficient appliances.
The Commission also claims that for every additional 1% in energy savings, EU gas imports will fall by 2.6% – decreasing dependence on external suppliers.
Günther Oettinger, vice president of the EU Commission and responsible for energy said today’s proposal is “ambitious and at the same time it is realistic”.
“Our aim is to give the right signal to the market and encourage further investments in energy saving technologies to the benefit of businesses, consumers and the environment” said Oettinger in a statement.
EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard said the 30% target is “very good news” for the climate, investors, and for Europe’s energy security and independence, “meaning not such good news for Putin.”
A leaked Commission report from April on Europe’s reliance on fossil fuel imports from Russia, reveals an EU “stage three” ban on Russian gas and oil imports and exports, would make a US$300 billion hole in Russia’s US$420 billion annual budget, according to the EU Observer, but the ban would also affect EU members relying on Russian imports
The final decision is now passed onto the European Council, who will decide if the 30% target is binding or not, at the next summit, 23-24 October.
The newly affirmed 30% energy efficiency target is to complete the EU policy framework for 2030, on climate and energy. The framework also includes a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020 and 40% reduction by 2030 – which would require a 25% reduction in energy use and renewables to take a 20% share in the EU energy mix.
Back in January, the Commission proposed a 40% cut in EU emissions (below 1990 levels), and a renewables increase of at least 27%.
Newly elected president of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker backed the current 30% efficiency figure, as a “minimum” target.
On not being more ambitious, a Commission memo states: “targets have consequences” and achievement “involves costs”.
The memo then says that a 25% energy savings target would increase energy infrastructure costs by €2 billion a year, by 2030, and the current target of 30%, raises costs by €22 billion, requiring additional investments in energy efficiency of €89 billion a year, compared to doing nothing.
The Commission says private investments will primarily fund the target, and public money, will also be used to boost private funds.
A minimum of €38 billion will be available for low-carbon from the European Structural and Investment (ESI) Funds from 2014 to 2020.
So far, energy intensity in the EU decreased nearly19%, between 2001 and 2011, new buildings use half the energy they did in the 1980s and industry is about 19% less energy intensive than in 2001.
The next energy efficiency review by the European Commission is scheduled to be in 2017.
The Greens European Free Alliance accused the EU of manipulating data to downgrade the 2030 target and said the 30% target is just “business-as-usual”.
Green energy spokesperson Claude Turmes said: “Nobody should be deceived by the spin, what the Commission is proposing today on energy efficiency is devoid of true ambition, is not cost-effective and will prolong Europe’s dependency on fuel imports.”
Turmes called the 30% target “scandalous political manipulation” which goes “right to the top level of the Commission, with Commission president Barroso, energy commissioner Oettinger and secretary general Catherine Day complicit in holding back an impact assessment.”
The Commission’s prior policy impact assessment outlined a 35% energy savings target for 2030, as the most effective.
“Saving energy is not just some fringe climate change policy; it has to be the central plank of a sustainable European energy union,” says Turmes.
Adding that the current “non-binding” decision for the target, is “at odds” with the Commission’s own research which was used to decide the target.
Environmental campaign group, Greenpeace said the 30% policy is “a gift to the oligarchs”.
Greenpeace EU energy policy adviser, Frederic Thoma said the Commission has “tabled another gutless plan on energy that is a gift to the oligarchs of this world.”
Adding that a more ambitious target would have helped Europe to “stand up to bullies like Putin.”
“The Commission’s own research shows efficiency could also create three-and-a-half million jobs, while helping tackle climate change. It’s a no-brainer that EU leaders cannot ignore” says Thoma.
Greenpeace proposed a 55% cut in carbon emissions, a 45% share in renewables – and a 40% energy efficiency target.
Greenpeace accused Europe’s largest energy companies of “lobbying hard to avoid a meaningful EU energy efficiency target” as it “would threaten their market dominance.”
Friends on the Earth Europe (FoE) claimed in response that a 40% target would save €552 billion on fossil fuel imports, oppose to €315 billion saved with a “bafflingly weak” 30% target, and agreed the 30% target “ignores” the Commission’s own analysis.
FoE said higher targets would result in a 40% drop in gas imports, compared to the predicted 22% drop with the current 30% target.
FoE said citizen and community-controlled renewables should instead be at the centre of Europe’s energy policy.
Brook Riley, climate and energy campaigner at FoE said “Europe is crying out for a way to reduce dependence on imported energy. The easiest, safest way to do this is to use less energy.”
FoE also reported that the current Commission President Barroso, and his advisor Catherine Day are concerned that a higher target would provoke strong opposition from member states, and damaging the chances of securing a 2030 deal on climate and energy.
“Many countries, including those hardest hit by the economic crisis, are calling for ambitious binding targets” says FoE, “in one move Barroso is ensuring Europe misses out on the environmental and economic benefits of saving energy.”
In June representatives for Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal wrote a letter asking for a high energy efficiency target.
However, on 4 July, Jerzy Buzek, Polish MEP from the European People’s Party argued on ambitious climate and energy targets: “It takes time.”
“The individual cost for each member state is very different. If you take Sweden for example, with 8% fossil fuels use; reducing CO2 emissions is very easy.”
“But it’s not so easy for Estonia, Romania, Poland and some other Member States. We must take into account that we need time, nothing more” said Buzek. “We don’t have enough of a grid for [renewables], we must develop a lot of additional infrastructure.”
While Bas Eickhout, Dutch MEP for the Greens-European Free Alliance said “energy efficiency is most often the most cost effective solution.”
Wnergy efficiency “delivers money, most of the time it is a financing gap, once you have finance going and you reduce energy use, you also reduce a lot of waste of money and energy.”
“Everyone has different starting points” but the political will to make choices against energy dependency is more important, said Eickhout.
Researchers from the UK Research Council’s End Use Energy Demand (EUED) Centres, says a 30% energy efficiency target is “insufficient” and the target should have remained at the original 40%.
“A 40% target should be cost-effectively achievable with currently available technologies” and is consistent “with the current rate of improvement in energy efficiency across the EU” the EUED has said.
A 40% target would reduce EU fossil fuel imports by 40% compared to 2010, equivalent to today’s imports from Russia, says the EUED.
A higher target would also improve health and lower fuel poverty and bills, ensuring political momentum and investor confidence.
Less than 40% implies “a weakening of political commitment” says the EUED.
John Barrett of the UK In demand Centre says it is now “almost impossible to envisage a  policy package that can avoid an above two degree temperature rise.”