While energy efficiency and conservation sometimes get less attention than sexy new renewable energy technologies, they are central to the effort to fight climate change.
So news from The Guardian that the European Union is actively considering a (non-binding) 35% target for reducing absolute energy use is encouraging indeed, especially as EU president José Manuel Barroso is said to be supportive. Before we get too carried away, however, we should note that the deal is by no means done (The UK, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are said to object):
Barroso himself is thought sympathetic to a robust 2030 energy savings target, and is said to have given a green light to the energy and climate commissioners, Günther Oettinger and Connie Hedegaard, to push for a higher headline figure than 25%. A number in the 30%-35% range remains firmly in play. This faces strong opposition though from the EU’s secretary-general Catherine Day, a key power in the current Commission regime, who is holding out for a 25%-27% energy savings goal on grounds of cost-effectiveness.
What's perhaps even more interesting is that the EU's own energy efficiency review suggests that the higher the efficiency targets, the greater the economic benefits will be. This was reported on in more detail over at euro-focused news site EurActiv, where an even higher (but probably not politically in-play) 40% figure was discussed:
The EU’s impact assessment estimates the economic effects of a range of efficiency targets – from none at all to the 40% figure - and in all models, the higher energy savings goals return the highest economic benefits. In the chemicals sector for instance, a 40% efficiency target would increase employment by 4.1%, a 35% goal would hoist it 2.2%, a 30% target would give a 1.1% lift, while a 25% business-as-usual scenario would deliver a smaller 0.4% increase.
“Setting a binding objective for energy efficiency can help to achieve three major policy objectives at once: decreasing European dependency on fuel imports, lowering the EU’s CO2-emissions and boosting growth and jobs,” one EU diplomat told EurActiv.
It's a strange world we live in where we spend tax-payer money to calculate the most economically advantageous energy policy, and then we have political debates over how much to water down the ambitious targets they come up with. Still, 35% will be a strong target if the EU goes for it.
If it doesn't, EU citizens should rightly question why they fund such reviews in the first place.