European Commission: plan for 20% energy efficiency by 2020

Experts question viability of 'timid' EU energy plan, with few provisions for energy-efficient buildings.


The European Commission launched its calculations onAlliant Energy Corp. Bent Tree Wind Farm how to reach a 20% increase in energy efficiency by 2020 but as it did so, senior policy figures were questioning the math.

Around 40% of the current energy efficiency gap should be covered by a national energy saving obligation scheme that will yield savings of up to 100 million tons of oil a year by 2020, diplomats say. Another 30% will come from the roll out of legislation to ensure performance-based energy contracting and the rest from measures such as a requirement for public authorities to refurbish at least 3% of their buildings each year. New legislation is also promised on eco-design labeling for windows, and “split incentive” situations in which tenants and landlords are reluctant to pay for energy savings.

But in the absence of national sectoral targets to weigh the progress of these measures, one former policy director said it was “far too timid” and that it was "wishful thinking" to imagine they would bring the desired outcome.

Energy consultant Randall Bowie was particularly concerned that the 3% target for building renovations lacked detail and only applied to the public sector, which is only 12% of Europe's building stock. Bowie said, "There's a need for the member states to be required to develop long-term building renovation targets. You have to address the private sector more carefully and they haven't done that. By leaving it out they make it more difficult to reach the 2050 objective."

In January, Commission President José Manuel Barroso called for "concrete steps" to meet the EU's target. Many expected firm legal targets to be announced this year. But the document only proposes to review whether these are necessary at the end of 2013.

Energy efficiency is one of the EU's three 20-20-20 targets for the decade, along with increasing the use of renewable energies to 20% of its overall energy mix and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.

Unlike the other two goals, energy efficiency targets are not legally binding and in January, Barroso blamed this for the fact that it was the only goal not being met. Commission documents forecast average energy savings of only around 10% by 2020, with the UK on track for 9% and even Germany only likely to hit 14%.

- Edited by Bettina Chang, Consulting-Specifying Engineer,

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