Denmark seeks breakthrough on EU energy efficiency
Less "sexy" than other policy areas, EU energy efficiency efforts are off track due to squabbling among member states on what measures to implement.
But the Danish EU presidency will try to reach an agreement on a new package of laws by June, the responsible minister told this website in an interview.
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"I have a feeling many of the countries are more preoccupied about how they can escape their commitments rather than fulfil them," said Martin Lidegaard, Denmark's energy minister ahead of a meeting of his EU counterparts on Tuesday (14 February).
Unlike targets for CO2 emissions and renewable sources, the target of increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020 "is off track", he said. This is because member states refused to have a binding target and went instead for binding measures. But now many countries are discovering that particular measures - ranging from insulating government-owned buildings to hospitals and schools - are too costly or inadequate.
Lidegaard, who wants an agreement on binding measures by June, points out that EU leaders committed themselves in December to delivering on the 20 percent target "and to do it fast."
The effort is thought likely to create around 2 million jobs.
He admits that the topic is less headline-grabbing than wind or sun energy, but says that it is the "cheapest, quickest and most cost-efficient" way to reach Europe's climate targets.
"What's not glorious is that from 2010-2011 the oil bill of the EU rose by 40 percent, €100 billion extra. That's not glorious. This money could have been invested in jobs, in green growth, in renewables, energy efficiency," Lidegaard said.
"It's true energy efficiency has not been as much of a sexy topic as renewables, but that is a mistake."
Denmark itself went through this phase four years ago, when it created a market for energy savings, allowing companies to charge a small tariff, which was re-invested in energy efficiency.
"In the beginning, both the industry and the energy companies who had this obligation were quite sceptical, saying that it will cost consumers too much. But it has been very beneficial both for the energy companies who got new business and for the consumers, because companies started competing on who can deliver these targets for the cheapest price," the minister said.
"Now we have a situation where they [the energy companies] urge us to increase the level of ambition in energy savings. With our new energy package that we just put on the table, pending parliamentary approval, we will go beyond the 20 percent target."