There is always excitement in the air when you go to a summit. There is something special. It was good to attend the Energy Savings Summit in Brussels organised by the Coalition for Energy Savings. It was good to see old friends and colleagues and meet new people. No doubt the energy efficiency community dealing with EU policies is growing. And it certainly helps having the Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete, as the keynote speaker.
The theme of the summit was appropriately putting Europe’s people at the heart of the energy transition, given that the discussion largely focussed on the Commission’s consumer-centred clean energy package, published last November and now under the review process.
I certainly won’t recount the event and the points raised by all the speakers but I want to reflect on some of the points that touched me the most. First, I was pleased that there were speakers from the European Parliament, representatives of Member States (the Council), the Commission and a wide range of stakeholders from consumer associations, environmental groups, as well as those focused on energy use in industry and buildings.
Importantly, the issue of targets arose. Finally, Europe is talking about a binding target for energy savings and not an indicative one. But, there certainly is no agreement on what that target should be. Should we lower our expectations or raise them? I know what I want. I only wish there was a definitive analysis that would bring comfort to greater ambition. No doubt many member states want a lower goal than that proposed by the Commission. I simply don’t understand why unless they really do not give a priority to Energy Efficiency First. Does energy efficiency come first or doesn’t it?’ If it does, how can they argue for something less?
To me, Jeremy Wates from the European Environment Bureau gave the most poignant comment on ambition. He asked: can we really talk about EU leadership in energy efficiency? We are no longer the global leader, following the Paris climate agreement, we simply do not see ambition on the implementation. He argued that energy efficiency needs to do more than at present. Business as usual should not be on the table.
Because the event’s theme was on people, Isabelle Buscke, from the Federation of German Consumer Organisations, argued that the policies need to be more participative, especially for low-income consumers.
There are a couple of points in the closing remarks by Claude Turmes, the driver for sustainable energy in the European Parliament, that stayed with me as I returned to Paris. He stressed we need a vision and he reminded all of us that we only have 30 years to fully decarbonize. A vision on how to achieve that is sorely needed. For me, he is absolutely right but the vision today is not focussed on the big picture. The clean energy package is modest in its promotion of Energy Efficiency First. Going back to the Paris climate obligations, I do not see the proposals for the new energy efficiency policy foundation anywhere near where they should be to help meet those obligations. Will Article 7 in the Energy Efficiency Directive really be the spearhead for greater ambition? Can Article 7 bring us deep renovations that are so sorely needed to have our buildings truly perform in the manner they should in the low carbon future? And if it isn’t Article 7, where is that buildings renovation strategy that we as consumers need?
We certainly have a great way to go to instil that vision in Brussels and other European capitals. I think we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.