While the G7 leaders met in Brussels last week, another quietly significant deadline came to pass. It was a significant moment for both European energy security discussions and the process of tackling the global threat posed by climate change.

By Dora Petroula, Energy Savings Policy Officer

The 5th of June marked the end of the transposition period of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). It means that by now member states should have translated the provisions of the EED into their respective national laws. If they have done a good job, then their citizens and their economies can look forward to the benefits of energy savings. Unfortunately, it looks like they are doing the bare legal minimum.

The potential benefits of increasing energy savings are considerable. While it creates jobs across Europe, dependency on energy imports are reduced and greenhouse gas emissions cut. According to an analysis prepared by the European Commission, its full implementation would increase EU GDP by €34 billion and lead to the creation of 400,000 (net) new jobs in 2020. It sounds like a good thing to do, but are governments acting on it?

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The Energy Efficiency Directive is an important step in scaling up action on energy efficiency, but its implementation has already had a rocky start. The total EU energy consumption level – derived from the sum of the national targets that member states had to report to the Commission in April 2013 – exceeds the maximum level of consumption of the EU for 2020 (as defined in the EED). This would most likely take Europe beyond the set consumption levels that the directive says must be met to achieve the EU 20% energy savings target.

Furthermore, member states had to submit their national plans under Art. 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive by the end of last year. These plans set out how much energy member states need to save annually until 2020 to achieve the 1.5% target required by the EED and provide details on how they plan to do this. Most of the countries presented weak reports, making use of the maximum exemptions allowed to lower the ambition of their annual national target for energy savings. This means that the average annual savings in the EU is actually only 0.8% instead of the intended 1.5%. If this does not increase, people and businesses will miss out on the opportunities that the directive intended to deliver to them.

Doing the legal minimum, or achieving the best outcome?

From the 5th of June onwards, the European Commission could already start infringement procedures against any member state that fails to adequately implement the EED. This is the mechanism for dealing with governments that are failing to comply with any European legislation. However, this really isn’t the outcome that anybody wants. Implementation should be about putting the highest level of energy efficiency measures possible in place at the national level. It should not just be about member states meeting the bare minimum legal requirements in a directive. Countries should be embracing and reaping the full benefits of energy savings through the policies upon which they all agreed.

To achieve this in the coming years, the current energy efficiency policy framework needs to be reinforced. As a priority, there needs to be a binding and ambitious energy savings target for 2030 (see our briefing), but this can also be supported through ensuring a more ambitious implementation of existing energy efficiency legislation by member states, which is essential for reducing energy use in the EU.

Let’s not forget the solutions we already have in Europe for tackling our energy needs. Let’s ensure that energy efficiency is allowed to flourish and unleash the benefits for people, the economy and our environment.