Danish presidency might run out of time on prestige project

If the EU’s heads of states do not manage to agree on the directive on energy efficiency under the Danish presidency, Danish MEP Bendt Bendtsen fears a later agreement will be very weak or not at all, resulting in the EU not meeting the 2020-goals for climate.

Text and photos by Lene Munk

In June 2011 the Commission made a proposal for a directive on energy efficiency. At first the proposal was met with 1800 amendments. Now the Danish EU-presidency, with minister of Climate and Energy, Martin Lidegaard in front, is trying to make the 27 member states agree on the directive. And this has proven to be something of an exercise.

The EU has set itself the task of achieving 20 percent primary energy savings in 2020. Investigations from the Commission are showing that they are far from the goal and according to the proposal the directive on energy efficiency has to be implemented now for the EU to reach its goal in 2020.

“So far the sad fact is that where we are on track to meet the binding target on renewable energi and the binding CO2-reduction target, we are very far from meeting the nonbinding energy efficiency target. We should be on track to meet 20 percent, but we are not even on track to meet 10 percent,” climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard says.

”We are not even on track to meet 10 percent,” Connie Hedegaard says about the energy efficiency goal.
”We are not even on track to meet 10 percent,” Connie Hedegaard says about the energy efficiency goal.

One of the challenges for the Commission is that the member states are not happy about binding targets on energy efficiency, but according to Connie Hedegaard the states are not so good at meeting the nonbinding targets, even though they have committed to prove that they are able to.

High priority directive

The Energy Committee approved a draft of the directive on the 28th of February. They thereby gave Claude Turmes from the Greens the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the committee with the Council and the Commission with a view to a possible first reading agreement on the file.

The Danish government is trying to convince the other member states that this directive is the best way to solve several problems for instance on climate, energy and economics. Concluding this directive has become one of the highest priorities of their EU-presidency.

“We know that this is a difficult issue for many member states and also something that attracts a lot of attention in the European Parliament. We will do anything we can to have a conclusion on the energy efficiency directive,” Nicolai Wammen, Danish minister of European Affairs says.

Climate commissioner, Connie Hedegaard is warning the Danish presidency not to push through on concluding the directive.

“Sometimes if you have a deadline and you really need to do things quickly you might be inclined to give in to much and have a bad result,” she says.

She wants the directive to be implemented in its most original form.

“If you for instance look at the proposal on retrofitting and renovating public buildings, 3 percent each year, the governments are saying that it is too much and that it is too expensive, and asking if we can make it only public buildings or just a proportion of the buildings. But it is also clear that if you delay it too much, you will not get the job effect,” Connie Hedegaard says.

The benefits of decreasing import

The Danish member of the European Parliament Bendt Bendtsen, who is a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, also points out the possibility of becoming less dependent of energy sources from outside of Europe.

Bendt Bendtsen made the initiative report for the directive on energy efficiency.
Bendt Bendtsen made the initiative report for the directive on energy efficiency.

“Europe is becoming increasingly dependent on gas from Putin in Russia, we are becoming increasingly dependent on fossil fuels from the Middle East. And it’s bad to be so dependent on someone – especially some regimes that do not quite have the same values ​​that we have,” Bendt Bendtsen says.

Connie Hedegaard is also focused on the economic advantages of the EU finding ways to avoid importing to much energy.

“Last year Europe imported oil for 315 billion euro. That is almost the same as the size of the Greek dept. The bill came up in one year with 40 percent due to increase in oil prices. If we can become more energy efficient, we can reduce that kind of bills. It would be cheaper for the citizens, it would be cheaper for the companies and at the same time we could create jobs,“ she says.

Agreement has to be found under Danish presidency

Bendt Bendtsen and Connie Hedegaard agree that it will be a challenge for the Danish minister on Climate and Energi to find a compromise.

“He will might have to be less ambitious than he wants to to get a settlement,” Bendt Bendtsen says.

He is afraid that the directive will fall apart if the Danes do not succeed in this matter. And with only three and a half months left of their presidency he urges the Danish government to do everything in their power to conclude the directive.

“It is very important to make the agreement during the Danish EU-presidency. If it is not being implemented under the Danish presidency it will proceed to the Cypriot presidency, and they do not pay as much attention to energy issues,” Bendt Bendtsen says.

The Danish government is very eager to make this happen, but Nicolai Wammen is pointing at a lack of willingness in some member states to bring about a solution as the obstacle right now.

“Can I promise you that we will have a conclusion on this during the Danish presidency? No. Can I on the other hand promise you that we will do anything possible for that to be achieved? Yes,” he says.

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