2017 Energy Savings Summit: Europe’s people at the heart of the energy transition

On 2 May, the Coalition hosted its 2017 Energy Savings Summit - Europe’s people at the heart of the energy transition, the leading conference dedicated to energy efficiency in Brussels. It brought together key EU, national and local policymakers with energy efficiency stakeholders to discuss the energy efficiency framework after 2020 and how it could boost the competitiveness of the European economy and support a just energy transition.

Paolo Falcioni, President of the Coalition for Energy Savings and Director General of CECED underlined that the Summit comes at a critical moment in deciding the fate of EU’s energy efficiency policies. With the Council fast-tracking energy efficiency files, it is yet open whether it will support the European Commission in securing a robust delivery of energy efficiency in the Clean Energy Package.  This highlights the need for high-level political attention, because at current pace huge efficiency potentials remain untapped.

keynote speaker He stressed that the Commission’s proposed 2030 headline target and the continuation of the 1.5% savings obligation after 2020 are the minimum and warned of the risks of lowering ambition.

Sonja Van Renssen, independent energy and environment journalist, and Stefan Scheuer, the Secretary General of The Coalition for Energy Savings, co-moderated the two Summit panels.

Energy efficiency policies boosting competitiveness

The first panel discussed the role of energy efficiency in the EU’s economic performance, and what it might mean for national economies and the future of the EU. The panel kicked off with a discussion with two policymakers of the panel MEP Anneleen Van Bossuyt (ECR, BE) and Grzegorz Radziejewski from the cabinet of Commssion Vice-President Jyrki Katainen.

Anneleen Van Bossuyt underlined her concerns about affordability and her preference for lowering the 2030 target to 27 percent. The investment burden of higher targets would be too high for a large part of households. Ms. Van Bossuyt was looking forward to an impact assessment requested by Belgium and other Member States on the impact of various target levels.

Mr. Radziejewski set out how the European Commission is doing its best to attract increased financing for energy efficiency measures around Europe. This includes the reform of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and combining existing financing instruments in the Smart Finance for Smart Buildings Initiative. He underlined the importance of predictability for investors and recommended stable policy frameworks  as a tool to improve access to capital. 

The policymaker discussion was followed by comments from three stakeholders: Harry Verhaar, Chairman of EU-ASE and the Head of Global Public and Government Affairs at Philips Lighting, Marco Mensink, Director General of the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) and Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

Harry Verhaar responded to statements made by MEP Van Bossuyt on the problem of costs related to ambitious energy efficiency policies by referring to studies showing business as usual scenarios arriving at a 35 % reduction in energy use in 2030 compared to 2007 predictions. The technologies required to advance towards an even higher efficiency target exist, but the take up requires both improved financing and long-term stability in the markets.

Marco Mensink reminded that the bulk of growth in global energy use happens in developing countries. He questioned why Member States are not moving forward with the energy efficiency of the building stock, which is a win win proposition for both citizens’ living conditions and for the economy through local jobs.

Jeremy Wates criticised the lack of ambition of the Commission proposal, which is based on an impact assessment that did not take sufficiently into account the societal costs of inaction related to health and pollution costs.

Energy efficiency policies supporting a just energy transition

The second panel of the Summit focused on how energy efficiency can help build support for the energy transition, through tangible benefits to people both as consumers, workers and citizens. The panel began with a dialogue between Ando Leppiman the Estonian Deputy Secretary General on Energy and Construction, Mechthild Wörsdörfer the newly appointed Director for renewables, research and innovation, energy efficiency at DG Energy and Rebecca Minch Principal Officer on Energy Efficiency and Affordability at the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) in Ireland.

Ando Leppiman representing Estonia, the upcoming EU presidency, noted the fast pace progress of the Maltese presidency on the energy efficiency files and stated that Estonia is looking forward to advance discussions and improve consumer aspects of the Electricity Market Design directive and regulation. Mechthild Wörsdörfer presented the three main objectives of the Clean Energy package: setting energy efficiency first, being a global leader in renewable energy and making the Energy Union work for the consumer.  Rebecca Minch highlighted the positive role of EU targets in driving national action. For example in Ireland, the “Warmth and Wellbeing” project makes a link to the health sector by providing energy efficiency upgrades to people in energy poverty living with chronic respiratory diseases.

Isabelle Buscke the Head of Brussels office at the Federation of German Consumer Organisations began the stakeholder discussion, noting the positive developments in the current proposals related to putting consumers at the centre of the EU energy legislation. Benjamin Denis, advisor at the European Trade Union Confederation, noted that in addition to policies supporting the reduction of energy poverty, energy efficiency is a key factor in guaranteeing sustainable economic development in the future. Shradha Abt Energy Efficiency Manager at Eurima emphasised that an increased renovation rate is crucial for both energy efficiency and climate targets. Ms. Abt promoted a wide array of measures such as regulation, financing and awareness-raising.

The event’s closing speech was held by MEP Claude Turmes (Greens, LU). He emphasised that the EU cannot negotiate with nature and energy policy has to be based on science and not voodoo. The EU has to set standards and organise markets that can keep us in line with our commitments to the Paris agreement and bring stability to long-term planning.