Rethinking energy efficiency

Andrew Warren of the UK’s Association for the Conservation of Energy provides an excellent article in Building Magazine about how the European Commission is now treating energy efficiency as the first fuel. He commends this approach and contrasts this with the latest UK position to put old-fashioned supply-side solutions first. What can you say about your country?

 

Energy: Less is more

The European Commission wants energy efficiency to be treated as an energy source in its own right. It has issued a set of policy papers, designed to set up a new energy union.

It is calling for a “radical rethink on energy efficiency” in order to treat it as an “energy source in its own right”. The Commission is proposing that all 28 governments should introduce a radical new principle: energy efficiency and demand side management measures must always be permitted to compete on equal terms with new supply capacity.

For the first time, the European mantra must be that “the cheapest, safest and most secure form of energy is that which is not consumed.”

However, energy commissioner Miguel Canete has been describing the policy as being unquestionably “efficiency first”. This echoes the International Energy Agency slogan of energy saving as “the first fuel”. However, it is noticeable that neither phrase is repeated in the final document. Instead it refers to national governments giving efficiency “primary consideration in their policies”. This is in line with the long-established goal to “turn the European Union into the most energy efficient economy in the world”.

Beforehand, many national governments have published their preferred view of the thrust of the new policy. The German government’s strong emphasis is upon the role that reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP should play, particularly in existing buildings, in line with its established successful Energiewende policy.

In noticeable contrast, the lengthy UK “position paper” concentrates very largely on conventional supply-side measure”. On “demand moderation (sic)” it concentrates largely upon subsidiarity issues, arguing only for a “supportive role” from European directives. It stresses that any targets should be “non-binding and not apply at the national level”. Nowhere in the UK government paper is there any concession to the concept that saving energy might reduce the need for new supply sources.

With the European Parliament set to fully endorse the importance that the Commission (and the German government) gives to energy efficiency, it seems that – as occurred with the negotiations on the European 2030 climate targets – yet again the DECC civil servants intend to continue to promote its old-fashioned suppliers-first dogma.

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