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Energy efficiency: the ever neglected priority of the European energy strategy. Egmont Paper No. 66, June 2014

Zgajewski, Tania (2014) Energy efficiency: the ever neglected priority of the European energy strategy. Egmont Paper No. 66, June 2014. [Policy Paper]

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    Summary. Energy saving has been a stated policy objective of the EU since the 1970s. Presently, the 2020 target is a 20% reduction of EU energy consumption in comparison with current projections for 2020. This is one of the headline targets of the European Energy Strategy 2020 but efforts to achieve it remain slow and insufficient. The aim of this paper is to understand why this is happening. Firstly, this paper examines the reasons why public measures promoting energy efficiency are needed and what form these measures should optimally take (§ 1). Fortunately, over the last 20 years, much research has been done into the famous ‘energy efficiency gap’ (or ‘the energy efficiency paradox’), even if more remains to be done. Multiple explanations have been given: market failures, modelling flaws and behavioural obstacles. Each encompasses many complex aspects. Several types of instruments can be adopted to encourage energy efficiency: measures guaranteeing the correct pricing of energy are preferred, followed by taxes or tradable white certificates which in turn are preferred to standards or subsidies. Information programmes are also necessary. Secondly, the paper analyzes the evolution of the different programmes from 2000 onwards (§ 2). This reveals the extreme complexity of the subject. It deals with quite diverse topics: buildings, appliances, public sector, industry and transport. The market for energy efficiency is as diffuse as energy consumption patterns themselves. It is composed of many market actors who demand more efficient provision of energy services, and that suppliers of the necessary goods and know-how deliver this greater efficiency. Consumers in this market include individuals, businesses and governments, and market activities cover all energy-consuming sectors of the economy. Additionally, energy efficiency is the perfect example of a shared competence between the EU and the Member States. Lastly, the legal framework has steadily increased in complexity, and despite the successive energy efficiency programmes used to build this framework, it has become clear that the gap between the target and the results remains. The paper then examines whether the 2012/27/EU Directive adopted to improve the situation could bring better results. It briefly describes the content of this framework Directive, which accompanies and implements the latest energy efficiency programme (§ 3). Although the Directive is technically complex and maintains nonbinding energy efficiency targets, it certainly represents an improvement in several aspects. However, it is also saddled with a multiplicity of exemption clauses and interpretative documents (with no binding value) which weaken its provisions. Furthermore, alone, it will allow the achievement of only about 17.7% of final energy savings by 2020. The implementation process, which is essential, also remains fairly weak. The paper also gives a glimpse of the various EU instruments for financing energy efficiency projects (§ 4). Though useful, they do not indicate a strong priority. Fourthly, the paper tries to analyze the EU’s limited progress so far and gather a few suggestions for improvement. One thing seems to remain useful: targets which can be defined in various ways (§ 5). Basically, all this indicates that the EU energy efficiency strategy has so far failed to reach its targets, lacks coherence and remains ambiguous. In the new Commission’s proposals of 22 January 2014 – intended to define a new climate/energy package in the period from 2020 to 2030 – the approach to energy efficiency remains unclear. This is regrettable. Energy efficiency is the only instrument which allows the EU to reach simultaneously its three targets: sustainability, competitiveness and security. The final conclusion appears thus paradoxical. On the one hand, all existing studies indicate that the decarbonization of the EU economy will be absolutely impossible without some very serious improvements in energy efficiency. On the other hand, in reality energy efficiency has always been treated as a second zone priority. It is imperative to eliminate this contradiction.

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    Item Type: Policy Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > energy policy (Including international arena)
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Egmont : Royal Institute for International Affairs > Egmont Papers
    Depositing User: Unnamed user with email
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2015 11:21
    Number of Pages: 38
    Last Modified: 23 Apr 2015 11:21

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