July 23, 2010
Regarding ‘EU mulls beefing up energy savings policy‘:
With the announcement that Danish MEP Bendt Bendtsen is to prepare recommendations for improving the EU’s energy savings policy, Europe’s half-hearted approach to reducing energy consumption could be about to change.
Reducing energy consumption – as opposed to simply improving efficiency, which has historically rebounded in demand increases – will guarantee greenhouse gas emission reductions, create new, local jobs and save money (up to €100 to €150 billion per year with a return to 1990 consumption levels).
On a straightforward consume less/import less basis, saving energy will reduce the EU’s dependency on external suppliers, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 80 large coal-fired power stations. Tougher, target-driven policies would squeeze out inefficient fossil fuel and nuclear power plants – which transform barely a third of the primary resources (coal, oil, uranium) into electricity – and accelerate the transition to home-grown, secure renewables. Such a transition is essential if we are to guarantee 80-95% cuts by 2050.
Practices and technologies to achieve the savings are already available. What’s needed is a higher level of commitment and accountability for ensuring that the right policies and programmes are put in place – and a clearer allocation of responsibility to deliver on them.
In this regard the role of energy suppliers, distributors and regulators must be closely examined. Opening up the market for energy service companies, which install energy saving measures and receive payment for them directly from the savings achieved, offers a wealth of opportunities to large and small businesses.
Investment risks could be covered by green banking solutions, which use public sources of finance (e.g. from energy and CO2 taxation or power transmission charges) to leverage, then direct private funds towards energy-saving opportunities and service providers.
In June, the European Parliament took a step towards prioritising energy savings by calling for a binding target in its resolution on the EU 2020 strategy. Mr Bendtsen’s report now needs to make the shift irresistible. Europe can only gain: saving energy is geo-politically secure, financially smart and environmentally effective, but without mandatory targets to give a clear political signal and to push financing and other policy instruments into place, it will not happen.
Brook Riley, Friends of the Earth Europe
Catherine Pearce, European Environmental Bureau
Erica Hope, Climate Action Network