Tuesday, October 17, 2006

EU to raise the bar on energy efficiency

The European commission is set to tighten energy efficiency rules across Europe, according to an action plan due out on October 19.

The new action plan - 'realising the potential' - seen by this website, outlines a series of EU steps to tighten energy efficiency rules in areas such as cars, power plants and household appliances.

The paper argues that Europe continues to waste “at least 20 per cent of its energy”, and says its measures aim to cut energy use by 20 per cent by 2020.

According to EU figures, member states could save €100bn every year by pursuing energy-efficient policies.

The commission’s paper – a follow-up to its energy green paper in March – was delayed after commission president Jose Manuel Barroso reportedly rejected previous drafts for being too vague.

The paper sets out ten “priority actions” for 2007-2012 to control and reduce the EU’s energy demand at a time of high energy prices and growing dependence on producers including Russia.

The actions listed include the development of higher energy-saving requirements for household items such as televisions and light bulbs, and the strengthening of EU rules on energy-efficient building designs.

On transport – which accounts for 20 per cent of total primary energy consumption – the commission makes it clear that it will crack down on CO2 emissions from cars.

“Should it become clear that the voluntary commitments of the car industry to reach 140 g CO2/km by 2008-09 will not be honoured, the commission will not hesitate to propose legislation,” the action plan reads.

Another priority action is the improvement of efficiency in energy production – according to EU figures, transformation losses accounted for 33 per cent of the EU-25’s primary energy consumption in 2005.

By 2008, Brussels will develop minimum binding requirements on efficiency for new electricity, heating and cooling capacity under 20 MW, and “consider, if necessary, such requirements for larger production units”.

Working with the energy supply industry, the commission will also develop guidelines to raise efficiency for all plants and reduce transmission and distribution losses.

The paper also says the commission will do more on energy taxation: a 2008 green paper will “review the Energy Tax Directive” to facilitate a more targeted and coherent use of energy taxation.

In 2007, the commission will also consider the costs and benefits of using tax credits and tax breaks as incentives for companies to produce more certified energy-efficient appliances and equipment.

The commission also plans to work with banks on helping small companies get funding for energy-efficient policies.

Awareness-raising on energy efficiency is also a priority, with the organisation of a competition for the most energy-efficient school.

But the paper ends with a note of caution, emphasizing that “more than anything, political will and engagement at national, regional and local level are necessary if the objectives here are to achieved”.

Meanwhile, Brussels is working on improving its “external energy relations” by boosting relations with its major energy suppliers – starting with Russia, with Vladimir Putin’s meeting with EU leaders on October 20 set to focus on energy issues.

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