Energy efficiency in Europe – new focuses for 2020

By adopting a series of proposals last March designed to promote new energy efficiency policies in member states, the European Commission confirmed the strength of its commitment to this issue. Construction is the first sector targeted, but the Commission also wants to reach individual consumers through incentivizing measures.

Following an initial assessment at the mid-point in the Climate and Energy Package, the European Commission decided to set new focuses for public policies in order to meet energy-savings and power-efficiency objectives at a Europe-wide level. This is because although the target of 20% renewable energies is set to be met, at the current rate gains in terms of energy efficiency will be no more than 10%. This is why on 8 March the Commission defined a new series of propositions to promote efficiency, due to become proposals for directives over the coming months.

Construction – the priority target for 2020

Several issues have been raised by the European Commission. While it notes energy governance efforts made by national players, it does not feel that the question is yet a high enough priority on national agendas. In the construction sector in particular, the possibilities for gains in terms of energy efficiencies are still underestimated and there is a shortage of qualified labour for renovation work.

In order for it to set an example, the public sector will be particularly expected to contribute. Public authorities will be obliged to renovate at least 3% of their buildings each year, and to include energy efficiency in projects’ allocation criteria. The size of the public sector and the importance of its real-estate portfolio should support the energy-efficiency services sector and the development of relevant skills. For private buildings, the Commission is considering new types of incentives to encourage renovations: the sharing of costs between landlords and tenants could encourage relevant decisions to be taken, as could the development of innovative services.

The consumer – a key player in energy savings

The Commission also wants to disseminate best practice among end users, particularly via new series of eco-design standards for small household appliances and the dissemination of labels informing consumers about the energy performance of their equipment (or their home). Finally, the Commission wants to offer consumers the means of controlling their energy consumption by giving them real-time measurement tools. The Commission is therefore relying on the roll-out of “smart grids” at a European Union level, based on the almost 80% of European consumers who, according to forecasts, are due to be equipped with smart meters by 2020. These meters will allow European consumers to define solutions for reducing their energy consumption.

However, implementation of these initiatives is sure to raise a number of questions and difficulties, not least the setting of specific (and tough) targets in member states. Up until now, the Commission has chosen to give member states until 2013 to implement its recommendations. The European Parliament, meanwhile, would like targets to be set by 2011.

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