Jogging away from commitment: the Energy Efficiency Directive

Horsens, located on the Danish coast and set against a backdrop of rolling hills and valleys, is a particularly charming city. The city has access to a lovely harbour opening onto the Kattegat, a continuation of the Baltic Sea or North Sea depending on your view. No, no, it wasn’t the Kattegat that EU Member States used to water down the draft Energy Efficiency Directive (EED); they did that quite well by themselves!

From 18 to 20 April, Energy and Environment Ministers held an informal meeting in Horsens to discuss, amongst others, the EED. In between jogging around the Danish countryside, the Ministers found time to agree that the foundation of future energy policy should include energy efficiency. The noble nature of this consensus, however, was somewhat insincere as the Council text released on 4 April (see our previous blog here) significantly weakened important energy efficiency targets (Articles 4 and 6), and even deemed deep building renovations (Article 3a) “unacceptable”. This “weak and confusing” mandate was (finally) addressed by the European Commission last week when it circulated to those in attendance a ‘non paper’ contrasting the Member State’s accepted provisions from 4 April and its initial proposal. The non paper is the first Commission document on the EED since its draft proposal more than a year ago.

According to the non paper, the EED has been watered down so much that only 38 per cent (!) of initial savings proposed could still be achieved; for those more number oriented, the Council version reduces primary energy consumption by 58.1 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) compared to 151.5 Mtoe proposed by the Commission in June 2011. The document, which includes a cost-benefit analysis, highlights that between 2011 and 2020 the Council version would result in EU Member States missing out on:

  • Increased EU GDP of €34 billion.
  • Increased net employment of 400,000.
  • Reduced fuel expenditure of an average of €38 billion annually.
  • Reduced energy spending of about €20 billion.

Today Denmark joined the Commission by hitting out at other Member States, and are calling for “ring-fencing a key article imposing an annual 1.5% energy savings target on power companies”. Not much of a demand in the big scheme of things, but ‘meget god’ to the Danes for making some sort of effort.

Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate these “damning assessment[s]”. Their late and unofficial nature, however, makes them toothless and unlikely to apply much needed pressure to the trilogue negotiations. The negotiations, which entered the final phase last week, remain plagued with divisive issues making the fine balance between EU and national interests so desperately sought by the Danish EU Presidency seemingly out of sight. Informal talks are likely to continue well into June (the next trilogue is scheduled for 8 May, with three to follow by 13 June), and a plenary vote should not be expected before September 2012, depending on progression of the negotiations.

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, however, does not appear overly concerned, noting that “realistically a solution is possible under the Danish Presidency” for the EED to come together in upcoming months. Let’s hope there’s an ace up the Commission’s sleeve [new Danish text on Article 6?] rather than depend on these guys:

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