Energy efficiency underpins energy transition

 energy efficiency, electricity consumption, energy transitionFRANCE – Following the drafting of the energy transition bill during the Council of Ministers on 18 June 2014, this major piece of legislation was adopted by the National Assembly on October 14th, making its way through the Senate, which will make a decision in open session in February 2015, after all stakeholders have been heard. Energy efficiency appears increasingly necessary in the eyes of legislators.

Civil society consensus on energy efficiency

Disagreements between industry leaders and civil society organizations following the National Discussion on Energy Transition (DNTE) first seemed to lead to a deadlock. MEDEF[1] threatened to walk out of negotiations, while an embittered FO[2] leader said that “the conclusions of the National Discussion were already written” and that “its only purpose was to confirm the dogmatic measures announced during the September 2012 Environmental Conference”.

Initially, changes in the energy mix were at the centre of negotiations, and each party advocated a different view on this issue. Then, the focus shifted to reduction in energy consumption, and energy efficiency appeared as a means to reconcile the various parties. On 7 October 2014, Bruno Rebelle, member of the DNTE steering committee, said that “a dramatic decrease in final energy consumption is at the core of the energy transition process”.

Drawing on data from the INSEE (French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Research), the latest WWF report estimates that energy efficiency could help cut energy consumption by 17% by 2020 and 40% on the long run. Besides, new technology could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78% compared to 2008 levels, according to the report.

Energy efficiency making its way through legislative process

In the energy transition bill outline published by energy minister Ségolène Royal, energy efficiency is referred to as the highest priority, followed by the diversification of energy supply sources. The bill aims to “foster energy efficiency and the sparing use of energy”; moreover, article L142-3 provides for the establishment of a High Council for Construction and Energy Efficiency.

This paradigm shift will help get all industrial sectors involved and make it easier for legislators to take action. According to Bernard Cherlonneix, President of the Institute for Democratic Renewal, energy efficiency offers a whole host of practical solutions such as “better grid management (smart grids), pricing schemes to encourage consumption at off-peak times, decentralization of production and self-consumption…” The minister of energy commended MPs for adopted the bill’s provisions “in record time”.

Before these measures can be implemented nationwide, the bill will need to be signed into law by the Senate, where it will be first examined by the Committee on economic affairs. Chaired by Jean-Claude Lenoir, the committee appointed Senator Ladislas Poniatowski as rapporteur on October 28th. The latter supervised the legislative work on the 2011 European Directive on Energy Efficiency. Back then he confirmed the goal of 17% energy savings by 2020, in accordance with France’s Energy Efficiency Action Plan (PAEE).

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[1] France’s largest employer federation
[2] Labour union

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