European Energy Efficiency Plan

Sargasso, Dutch weblog and co-nominee in the recent BOB’s has a very interesting post on European energy policy, which prompted me to address the issue here as well. The point of my own post here on AFOE is not to elaborate extensively on European energy policy, I simply do not have the time right now, but simply to draw your attention to the fact that there is a European policy, the Energy Efficiency Action Plan, not to be confused with its US namesake (pdf), and to start a discussion.

The ambitious aim of the European EEAP is to have a 20% reduction in wasteful energy consumption by 2020. From the official press release:

“Europeans need to save energy. Europe wastes at least 20% of the energy it uses. By saving energy, Europe will help address climate change, as well as its rising consumption, and its dependence on fossil fuels imported from outside the Union’s borders.” said Energy Commissioner Piebalgs. “Energy efficiency is crucial for Europe: If we take action now, the direct cost of our energy consumption could be reduced by more than €100 billion annually by 2020; around 780 millions tonnes of CO2 will also be avoided yearly” he pointed out.

In another press-release on the same subject we can read the following:

At the same time saving energy is the easiest, most rapid and most effective way to answer the challenge of our energy dependence and reduce damage to the environment.

So, the objectives are clear: save money, help the environment and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel imports. How? The EEAP outlines these focal points (I have added a few informational links here and there):

1) Promote energy-efficient household appliances through labelling and performance requirements
2) Promote low-energy housing (pdf)
3) Render power generation and distribution more efficient
4) Further reduce CO2 emissions from cars
5) Facilitate financing of energy efficiency investments for enterprises
6) Stimulate energy efficiency in the new member states
7) Use tax tools in a carrot-and-stick fashion
8) Raise awareness and share information, both within the EU and worldwide

The big problem, as always, is mentioned at the end of the proposed plan:

Nonetheless, before any of these objectives can be achieved, political will and engagement at national, regional and local level are necessary. The European Council, European Parliament, as well as national and regional policy makers will need to renew their full commitment and establish a clear and unambiguous mandate to facilitate the implementation of the Action Plan by endorsing it and agreeing on the proposals set forth.

Nevertheless, I’d like to take a positive approach and welcome the proposed policy set forth by the European Commission while awaiting new developments in the area of alternative energy as well.

For those who are interested, please go and read the details of the EEAP in full and share your thoughts and insights with us.

8 thoughts on “European Energy Efficiency Plan

  1. We’re falling awfully behind in the renewable energies sector. China is planning to invest ~190b$ into solar energy until 2020. It’s planned to reach 16% renewable energies by that date and maybe a 30% ratio by 2030 (source: http://www.heise.de/tp/r4/artikel/23/23921/1.html)

    Here in Europe the thick of corporatism and state industries financing nuclear and traditional power will be hard to cut through. European grand plans may be little more than the usual lobbying for subsidies.

    Attention: I think at least we’re better off than the US who will probably fall back to subsistence farming and labor camps for most of its citizens 😉

  2. Oliver, maybe not technically (as in bureaucracy) but just look at the recent power outage. We are all connected in so many ways that international cooperation/coordination has become indispensable. One, single body with a decent overview could do, in theory, better than a fragmented system. And, personally, I find it somewhat comforting that there exists a supranational body that can force reluctant member states to conform to certain standards.

  3. The entire point of the Sargasso article is that the EU is better at this than the Member States. Or The Netherlands, at least. Kind of sorry how we have gone from being environmental leaders in almost every field to laggards in many. We even protested loudly against new air quality standards.

    In many cases the EU is not only better, but also the only effective level for regulation.

    It’s clear that product standards can only be agreed on the European level, due to the single market. A Member State can only regulate products made by its own industry and can’t easily refuse products from other Member States or from outside the EU.

    The same applies to industry standards. Member States can only regulate their own industry and have no means to punish foreign industry for having lower standards. In many cases, this will decrease competitiveness (or will be falsely perceived as doing so), so no action will be taken.

    On standards for offices, and especially residences this is less directly clear. The energy efficiency standards for commercial property will have some effects upon competitiveness, so an argument could be made there. For homes, this frame doesn’t apply.

    Ex-Commissioner Bolkestein fiercely criticised having EU standards for residential buildings, asking if these homes crossed the border. There’s something to that.

    But energy use, like Guy says, is no longer a national issue, because we are moving to a European energy market. Additionally, some pollution issues cross borders and cannot merely be addressed at the source.

  4. International coordination already happens under the auspice of UCTE. (http://www.ucte.org/). The standards you talk about have been developed over the last 50 years. The EU is joining the party quite late in the day.

  5. You are ignoring that a common energy policy would impose costly frictions on the members as conditions are not uniform across the union. Eg. in Finland I’d concentrate on buildings’ thermal insulation. Doing the same on Cyprus is foolish.

    As for electrical energy, I’ve never noticed that coordination between national companies within a member would require a whole new bureaucracy.

  6. Oliver,

    Good thermal insulation works both ways! Can cause people to go easy on the airco as well. This is also in the policy plan, which seeks a kWh per square meter standard, and binding requirements to install ‘passive heating and cooling technologies’. Many sustainable technologies are themselves intelligent about their surroundings. For those that aren’t, I guess the EU strategy is just going to have to be smart.

    I don’t really get your point on electrical energy. Are you talking power generation here or appliances?

    On power generation, we’re moving from state-owned and controlled power generation to privatised power on a single European market. Because power generation is a network-bounded industry without serious outside competition, it will require a rather high level of regulation just to actually function as a market (not to even start about market failures).

    So we need a new bureaucracy there because of changing circumstances, either a European regulator or an EU-guided network of national regulators. Then again, reverting the tendency towards privatisation is also an option according to some.

  7. Yes, in some places in the EU even solar cooling should be looked into. Still what can the EU do, what member states cannot do equally well or better?

    Yes, saving energy is a good idea. So is regularly washing your hands. Yet we don’t involve the EU.

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