Europe unveils new plan to boost energy efficiency

The European Commission (EC) has outlined a host of proposals to update its energy strategy, boosting energy efficiency and security in the region, while reducing emissions.

The new measures are needed to reduce Europe’s reliance on energy imports, which currently make up over half of the region’s usage, help address rising prices and ensure that the region meets its 20-20-20 targets, said Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

“Energy prices have risen by an average of 15% in the European Union in the last year. 54% of Europe’s energy is imported at a cost of €700 for every EU citizen. We have to address this urgently, by taking measures to increase our energy efficiency and reduce our dependence on imports,” he said.

Europe’s 20-20-20 targets aim to achieve 20% improvement in energy efficiency, 20% renewable energy and 20% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2020.

Energy efficiency is at the forefront of the region’s action plans, according to the proposals. The region already has energy efficiency legislation and programmes in operation, but these needed to be ramped up.

Under the new proposals energy efficiency standards that have become the norm for appliances would be applied to other energy-using products in the industrial and commercial sectors such as water pumps and lifts, energy-related items like windows and even car tyres.

Buildings, which consume 40% of the region’s energy, are singled out for improvement. The scope of existing energy performance certificates will be extended – they will now have to be included in advertising for sale or lease properties, as well as be included in the sale or lease documents.

Under the proposals, all buildings undergoing major renovation will have to meet certain efficiency standards, even those under 1000 m2, which had previously been exempt.

A major awareness campaign, Build-up, is planned for launch in 2009 to improve knowledge of the potential savings that can be achieved through efficiency measures in the buildings sector.

The efficiency of energy supply is also addressed in the proposals by plans to encourage the uptake of cogeneration combined heat and power (CHP) plants.

The proposals also focus on the energy network in Europe, which is coming under increasing scrutiny as the development of renewables accelerates.

Meeting the 20% renewables target by 2020 will require a massive overhaul of Europe’s energy network so that it can handle distributed and fluctuating energy generation supply. The costs of updating Europe’s electricity network and generation capacity could top €1 trillion, according to EC estimates.

To address this issue, the proposals cover five key initiatives including a supergrid connecting offshore wind farms in the North Sea and other that provide for grid integration across country borders.

Further information:

Related stories:
Europe to revise energy efficiency plans (6-Nov)
Scotland calls for North Sea ‘supergrid’ (13-Nov)

14 November 2008