Tuesday

26th May 2020

Analysis

Why is EU off track for 2020 energy efficiency target?

  • In 2018, energy consumption actually increased in 15 member states (Photo: Andreas Gücklhorn)

While the EU is on track to achieve its 2020 targets on greenhouse-gas emissions and renewable energy, the energy efficiency objective remains very much a 'pending' task for the bloc - leading concerned activists to call it the "biggest miss" of all EU climate targets due to be delivered this year.

Energy consumption had been gradually decreasing since the beginning of the century - but this trend changed in 2014.

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As a result, Europe consumes more energy today than when the 2020 target was adopted in 2012.

In 2018, energy consumption in the whole EU was five percent above the efficiency target set for 2020 (and 22 percent away from the 2030 target), according to statistics published by Eurostat last week (4 February).

However, these figures have barely changed from the previous year, confirming that progress in this sector is still insufficient to achieve the objectives set by the commission's Green Deal.

"The Green Deal will have to take a more systematic look at consumption and production patterns within the EU if we want to make the kind of progress on energy consumption that is needed to be carbon neutral by 2050," said Thorfinn Stainforth, a policy analyst at the think tank Institute for European Environment Policy (IEEP).

In 2017, the transport sector accounted for 31 percent of total energy consumption in the EU countries, followed by housing (27 percent), industry (25 percent) and services (15 percent) sectors.

But, according to Stainforth, the EU has not properly addressed the rising demand for energy in transport or housing yet.

Needs legal targets

The revision of EU rules for charging certain vehicles for the use of roads, the proposed "renovation wave" of building stock by the European Commission or the enforcement of legislation related to the energy performance of buildings, could all be "transformative" measures if taken seriously, said Stainforth, who called for targets "to be supported by binding implementing legislation to be effective".

However, only the emissions-cut goal was legally-binding of the so-called EU's '20-20-20' targets - 20 percent increase in energy efficiency, 20 percent reduction of CO2 emissions, and 20 percent renewables by 2020.

For Clémence Hutin, a campaigner at the NGO Friends of the Earth Europe, this missing target shows "a clear lack of political will to cut our energy consumption and the failure of non-binding targets as member states shirk their obligations".

In 2018, the energy consumption increased in 15 member states, compared to 2017.

According to Eurostat, the biggest energy-consumption increase was recorded in Poland and Spain, with a rise of 13.7 percent and 7.5 percent respectively in comparison to 2013.

In their resolution on the Green Deal approved by the European Parliament, MEPs called on the commission to deliver a binding 2030 energy‑efficiency target of at least 45 percent as a necessary step towards climate neutrality.

Fossil-fuel dependency

However, for Stainforth, the overall problem is that "economic growth is still not truly decoupled from energy use, especially once imports are considered".

In fact, Europe currently imports 54 percent of all energy it consumes and it is still particularly dependent on imports of crude oil and natural gas.

However, according to the head of climate and energy at NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Imke Lübbeke, "we have the technical potential to cut our energy demand in half by 2050 while ensuring the transition is fair, fast and cheap for people across Europe and by doing so, we will reduce our costly and polluting imports of gas and other fossil fuels".

"Using less energy is the easiest and cheapest way to cut carbon pollution, and is at the centre of all pathways to zero net emissions," she added.

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