On 4 October the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) passed through its final legislative gate and was adopted by Member States at a Council meeting in Brussels. It is Europe’s first comprehensive energy savings law, containing both binding targets and efficiency measures, and addressing both energy supply and end use.

The significance of this new legislation is in the promise it holds for ending a serious failure of the current energy system to tackle demand management, and thus to realise huge environmental, social and financial benefits. Now that the political negotiations have been completed, the focus shifts to the 27 Member States who must translate the Directive’s provisions into national law and then put them into practice. This should not be considered a burden. While protests rage across many European countries and many governments seek to resolve their budget deficits with harsh austerity measures, the new legislation offers the chance to stimulate growth in jobs and enable a transition to a sustainable energy system.

 

In 2007, the European Union made a commitment to achieve 20% energy savings – in buildings, industry, services, transport and the energy sector – by the year 2020. However, there was no political support for backing this commitment with binding national targets, as was done for the 20% renewable energy and 20% GHG emissions reduction targets. As a consequence, while the EU is currently on track to meet the other targets, it is barely half way to achieving its energy savings target.

The EED is a welcome response to this problem. It puts the 20% energy savings commitment into law. It introduces for each Member State a binding target to deliver 1.5% new energy savings each year for consumers and, provides a framework designed to overcome existing barriers to energy efficiency investments.

But there are many exemptions to these requirements and there will be diverging interpretations of the legal text. Regardless of the final interpretations and commitments, the result will be insufficient to deliver the EED objectives of reaching 20% energy savings by 2020 overall and 1.5% new savings each year for energy consumers. The Coalition for Energy Savings has calculated that minimum implementation would only achieve 15% savings instead of the required 20% savings by 2020, so governments will have to go well beyond the minimum requirements.

The European Commission, as chief guardian of EU law, must play a central role. It must assist Member States and their implementing bodies by ensuring a robust interpretation and a common understanding of the Directive, and developing guidance for applying best practices. This requires an inclusive and transparent process involving all stakeholders. It then needs to guide and monitor implementation, assess whether the EU is on track to achieve its 20% energy savings target and prevent complacency.

CAN Europe is now calling for all Member States to produce ambitious implementation plans that will reap the maximum economic, social and environmental benefits of energy savings, for citizens and businesses alike. Doing this will help to ensure we achieve the urgently-needed transition towards a sustainable energy system which is capable of meeting society’s changing energy needs in a safe, secure and affordable way.