Investing in improving Europe’s energy performance brings many more benefits than focusing on adding more supply onto the market – and there is no cheaper energy for citizens than the energy not consumed. Saving energy will boost local jobs, competitiveness and help the climate.
With this in mind, it looks obvious that the European Commission should aim for high ambition in setting an energy efficiency target in the upcoming Energy Union legislative package.
But in politics the obvious is often the most difficult thing to do, especially when it is about innovation. Energy efficiency can be very disruptive for the economic model of many incumbent energy companies, who often are as influential as they are conservative. Incumbents find many reasons why it is not so easy, why the change should not happen, or why it should be slower.
The energy transition will be slower and more disorderly without politicians setting a direction and making clear choices. Such leadership is what citizens expect of the politicians they elect.
It is imperative that the energy transition is a just and fair transition. People feel increasingly distant from politics and there is legitimate fear about the impact of the low-carbon transition on citizens’ lives and comfort. As with every change, there will be losers and winners – but we need to make sure the most vulnerable are not the losers.
Putting energy efficiency first is the way to ensure that fair transition. It means prioritising the renovation of leaky, energy-wasting buildings, the construction of efficient mobility systems and the replacement of inefficient appliances at home and in the factory. All citizens can benefit from putting energy efficiency first, regardless of geographical, geopolitical, social and economic differences.
Setting common targets and product standards and providing financial and technical assistance are the EU’s tools to steer that transition. If the EU wants to stay relevant it must use its tools well. This means that the 2030 energy efficiency target must be binding and well above the business-as-usual level of 30% anticipated by the European Council in 2014, and as a close as possible to the social and economic optimum, which is around 40%.
It will support sustainable economic development and local economies, and will save dozens of thousands more lives from air pollution – things we should all be striving for.
The European Commission is saying the right things about energy efficiency. Now it must do the right thing when it makes its proposals for the EU’s energy efficiency framework after 2020.
Signed by the Friends of the Coalition for Energy Savings: Caroline Lucas (UK MP), Anders Wijkman (Co-president of Club of Rome), Prof J Owen Lewis (Former CEO of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland), Gianni Silvestrini (Scientific Director Kyoto Club), Prof. Diana Ürge-Vorsatz (Director of the Center for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policies), Fiona Hall (Advisor on energy efficiency and former UK MEP), Prof. Marc Ringel (Nuertingen Geislingen University, Germany)