A bright idea: setting a binding EU energy savings target

4 February 2011

European Heads of State meeting today in Brussels for a special energy summit must show support for a binding target to drive down energy consumption, according to Friends of the Earth Europe. Without stronger action the environmental group is concerned that energy savings will remain a voluntary policy that European countries have largely ignored.

Meeting the EU's current 20% energy efficiency target for 2020 would cut CO2 emissions by 800 million tonnes, create up to a million new jobs, slash dependence on energy imports, save over € 1000 per year per household, and avoid the construction of about 1000 coal power plants [1].

Brook Riley, climate justice and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe stated: "The cheapest, cleanest and most secure energy is that which a country doesn't use. It's in everybody's interest to use less energy- we can contribute to solving the climate crisis, reduce household bills by up to 1000 Euros every year, and create millions of green jobs. But successful Europe wide action calls for strong political commitment. A binding energy savings target is the crucial first step."

Heads of State recognise that the EU is not on track to delivering those benefits, according to draft conclusions of the meeting today seen by Friends of the Earth. But the draft conclusions stop short of recommending stronger legislation for energy savings. Instead, the summit is intended to prioritise issues such as the EU's growing dependence on energy imports, but without drawing clear links with reduced domestic energy demand.

Brook Riley continued: "Rather than investing in environmentally controversial technologies, like shale gas, the EU should solve its import dependency issues by using less energy. Reducing energy use is the solution to Europe's energy security problems –we need a legally binding target that prioritises energy savings."

To coincide with the heads of state meeting, Friends of the Earth groups around Europe [2] have launched a campaign to call for a binding European energy saving target, and strong and social policies at the local and national level to ensure that every country contributes to saving energy [3].

Friends of the Earth groups around Europe will be focussing on the contribution that the buildings sector can make to meeting these energy saving targets. Buildings currently account for 40% of energy use in the Europe, and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. Energy savings have superb potential to create employment: up to 130,000 net new jobs in Hungary alone – the current EU Presidency holder – according to research at the Central European University in Budapest [4]. A faster timetable for building renovations, and ensuring that there is sufficient, appropriate, upfront financing to realise this potential must be priorities.

Alexa Botar, energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Hungary said: "80% of Hungarian households are facing energy poverty – paying far too much of their income on high energy bills. The Hungarian EU Presidency needs to push for a binding energy savings target. This will catalyse national energy savings programmes to ensure lower bills, energy security, new jobs and economic revival."

Energy savings in Europe's transport systems are also key to preventing reliance upon socially and environmentally destructive biofuels. [5]

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Notes:

[1] COM(2008) 772: Energy efficiency: delivering the 20% target

[2] The campaign will involve Friends of the Earth groups in Austria, Czech Republic, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Scotland Slovenia and Spain.

[3] See downloads.

[4] The study was completed by the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy (3CSEP) at Central European University at the request of the European Climate Foundation (ECF)

http://3csep.ceu.hu/sites/default/files/field_attachment/project/node-6234/englishexecutivesummary.pdf

[5] Driving to destruction The impacts of Europe’s biofuel plans on carbon emissions and land.