14 June 2012

EU reaches deal on energy efficiency law

© Roman Milert
© Roman Milert
European Union negotiators agreed early on Thursday the text of a law designed to make governments and utilities improve energy efficiency and lower the bloc's fuel bills, writes Reuters.

The legislative proposal was agreed by representatives of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Danish EU Presidency shortly after midnight, EU sources said. It still needs the approval of diplomats from the 27 member states and would then have to be rubber-stamped by ministers.

Months of intense debate diluted the ambition of the original proposals from the Commission and the European Parliament, which had aimed to cut energy use by 20 percent compared with projected levels by 2020.

A final round of negotiations, which began late on Wednesday, forged a deal more likely to put the bloc on course for roughly 15 percent savings. Its champions said it can still change the status quo to the benefit of consumers' and nations' budgets.

According to the Commission's original proposal, the article would have required utilities to deliver energy savings equivalent to 1.5 percent of annual sales. But member states watered down that clause to closer to 1 percent.

The Danish presidency, with backing from the Commission, has made energy efficiency a priority for its six months at the head of EU debate, which concludes at the end of this month.

Denmark, which has a deep domestic commitment to energy saving, has argued lowering consumption to curb reliance on imported oil and gas can play a major part in tackling EU debt, as well as creating jobs in building renovation and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Commission figures show the EU spent more than EUR84 billion (USD105 billion) on imported energy in 1999, representing 1 percent of the bloc's GDP. By 2011, the bill had risen to more than EUR488 billion, or 3.9 percent of GDP.

Roadmap to compensate for weakening

To help compensate for the weakened central clause, Claude Turmes, a member of the European Parliament, who has led the parliamentary contribution to the legislation, introduced a roadmap 2050 to steer investment decisions and identify cost-effective ways to making buildings more efficient.

The EU already has a statute on its books mandating that from 2020 all new buildings should consume "near zero energy."

But the challenge is retrofitting existing buildings, which account for roughly 40 percent of EU energy use. The Commission's original proposal for the Energy Efficiency Directive included provisions for renovating public buildings.

Again the ambition was reduced over the course of the debate, meaning very few buildings would be covered by the final text.

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