By September of this year energy efficiency will become the law of the land in Europe. Last week as its six-month term of European Union (EU) presidency came to an end, Denmark was able to push through a vote in favor of creating the EU’s first energy efficiency law: the Energy Efficiency Directive.
The aim of the Energy Efficiency Directive is to formalize an original agreement reached by European leaders in 2007. That non-binding agreement included a commitment to the reduction of energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Under the directive, that 20% goal has been shaved down to 17%—a hard won victory according to Martin Lidegaard, Denmark’s Minister for Climate, Energy, and Building and lead negotiator behind the Energy Efficiency Directive’s codification.
“It’s only 17%, because that was possible to get,” Lidegaard is quoted as saying by EurActiv.com. “We fought like lions. We started at 13%, and now we have 17%, and that is actually something we are proud of.”
The main source of conflict that arose during negotiations related to several of the law’s mandatory efficiency requirements, as well as skepticism over the ability of the member states to meet the 20% target. Additionally, EU electric utilities were wary of Article 6, a provision that “would have required utilities . . . deliver energy savings equal to 1.5% of annual sales.” In the end, a combination of “flexibility measures” (capping annual savings at 25% and thus lowering the actual savings required to 1.125%) and a last-minute provision exempting member states who are already adopting energy-efficient requirements for their utilities, led to the directives adoption.
While some critics opine that the last-minute provisions and compromises weakened the overall power of the Directive, one thing is irrefutable: the Energy Efficiency Directive means that what was once voluntary is now mandatory, and all EU member states will be required to work towards reducing the EU’s energy consumption by 17% by 2017.
So what do you think? Does the Energy Efficiency Directive make sense economically? Will the Directive make an impact on EU energy use? And should we be applauding a centralized mandate, or would a more distributed—and member state-specific—approach make more sense?