Monday

25th Jan 2021

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Energy treaty 'undermines success of Green Deal'

Over 250 civil society organisations and trade unions say that the Energy Charter Treaty is incompatible with the Paris Climate Agreement and the new Green Deal - becoming an obstacle to the clean-energy transition.

Opinion

How a Croatian gas project exposes Green Deal hypocrisy

The EU Commission is pushing a wave of controversial gas infrastructure projects, in parallel to its much-touted Green Deal. One of those a flagship project of the Republic of Croatia, who currently chairs the EU presidency.

Commission's €1 trillion bet on green deal financing

The European Commission unveiled on Tuesday its sustainable investment plan to put Europe on track to reach the 2050 emissions-neutrality goal - while helping coal-producing regions to move away from fossil fuels.

EU seeks to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030

The European Commission unveiled the EU's "renovation wave", aimed at doubling the renovation rate of existing buildings in the decade, and creating five new 'European Bauhaus' hubs across the EU, where architects and engineers can collaborate on green projects.

Power-price volatility hit EU wind markets during Covid-19

A new report reveals that the oversupply of electricity in Europe as a result of the coronavirus crisis has triggered wholesale electricity prices to drop below zero, affecting particularly wind-heavy markets such as Germany, Denmark and Ireland.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia to get first woman prime minister
  2. Turkey and Greece to hold Mediterranean security talks
  3. Dutch police detain 240 in anti-lockdown protests
  4. Renewables overtake fossil fuels in EU electricity mix
  5. France's top scientist warns of corona 'emergency'
  6. Growing appetite for Northern Ireland independence
  7. Surge in support for Portuguese far-right party
  8. German far-right party sues to avoid stigma

EU Commission methane plan lacks binding agriculture targets

The new European Commission strategy on slashing methane emissions focuses first on obtaining better data. Critics say it is a missed opportunity to impose targets and other binding measures on agriculture, the largest single emitter.

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. Navalny protests sharpen EU sanctions talks
  2. Why Russia politics threaten European security
  3. MEPs call for workers to have 'right to disconnect'
  4. Reality bites EU's 'No More Morias' pledge
  5. Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity
  6. Vaccine delay and Russia sanctions debates This WEEK
  7. Will EU ever take action to stop Israeli settlements?
  8. EU leaders keep open borders, despite new corona variant risk

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us