Energy Commissioner: Time to put binding energy efficiency on agenda (EU)

Energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has promised a revised action plan on energy efficiency by early 2011 at the "latest". In a recent interview, Danish Socialist Britta Thomsen, whose home country is Europe's leading country for energy efficiency, called on Oettinger and the EU presidency to push binding targets.

Thomsen, who believes binding targets are very important for energy efficiency, has suggested that the Spanish presidency was being reticent on the issue. The Spanish minister, Miguel Sebastián, speaking recently in the Parliament's Committee on Industry (ITRE), did not reply to her question as to whether the Spaniards will support binding energy-efficiency targets.

However, the Spaniards are not alone in being hesitant on binding targets. According to Thomsen, neither the presidency nor the commission nor the Parliament has shown much interest so far in binding targets. Member states, too, have been afraid of setting binding targets, fearing the practical consequences of implementing such targets, including concerns on required investments. But she believes this attitude could be changed.

Parliament should exert pressure to make sure that there is a thorough revision, in 2012, of progress in the field of energy efficiency. When negotiating the 2009 Renewables Directive, there was the understanding that if renewables are to reach a 20% share of energy consumption in 2020, greater use of energy efficiency is necessary. There is already a target of 20% reduction in energy consumption.

Thomsen believes that there is much experience to be gained in Denmark. In 2008, the Danish parliament – not the government – actually sent a plan to the commission on how to tackle energy efficiency. During the last 30 years, Denmark has witnessed continued economic growth while not increasing its consumption of energy.

A major reason for Denmark's success is the adoption of district heating. In 1979, Denmark set out to equip the whole country with district heating. She does not believe that Denmark's solution should apply to everyone, but there are many other strategies that could be adopted. The move towards "energy passive housing" is one. Housing accounts for some 40% of energy consumption.

With regards to the new draft action plan for energy, what Thomsen found especially interesting were the initiatives mentioned on energy efficient cities – the so-called "smart cities". She believes this is a very good example of how to link local communities in the fight against climate change. At the end of the day, energy efficiency will have to be achieved at the local level. Nonetheless, there are other aspects of EU policy to be tackled. Thomsen believes that the Parliament should tackle the Seventh Framework Programme for Research, which is lacking in financial support for research into energy efficiency.

Sources: European Parliament, Europolitics

Related News