Energy efficiency highly prioritised in Brussels

Publish date: April 15, 2011

Energy efficiency targets in the Europe 2020 Strategy are unlikely to be met with current developments. The European Commission put the topic high on the agenda at the European Union Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) in Brussels 11-15 April.

The Commission estimates that with today’s development, the target of 20 per cent increased energy efficiency by 2020 is only halfway to be reached. This is why on 8 March the Commission launched its communication Energy Efficiency Plan 2011. Following this communication the Commission will launch several concrete policy measures this summer. In 2013 the energy efficiency rate in all member states will be evaluated, potentially followed by legislative proposals introducing binding targets.

During EUSEW, the Commission presented its action plan, without going into details about the actual legislative proposals. Still, many far reaching measures are expected to be suggested, including ecodesign measures, stricter building codes and renovation of exciting buildings, energy supplier obligations, smart metering and retrofitting of power stations to increase output.

– There will be horizontal measures and monitoring. Measures will be legally binding, and we expect the public sector to take the lead, said Marie C. Donnoly from the Commission’s DG Energy, at the EUSEW.

Supplier obligations

Utilities are expected to be asked to play a larger role in reaching energy efficiency targets. DG Energy proposed on April 12th a communication on smart grids. In addition, obligatory smart metering targets are expected, to better allow customers to monitor their own energy use. There might also be stricter supplier obligations to monitor and limiting customer energy use. This is a controversial issue because energy companies will then need to be trusted to limit the sales of their own product. One way of doing this is the introduction of white certificates, which would oblige the suppliers to buy efficiency obligation on behalf of customers. Another suggestion is to strengthen the role of independent agencies that monitor energy consumption, and offer solutions for energy efficiency to end-users.

Best available technology

There is also a high potential of increased power output from generation, using the best available technologies (BAT).

– The power output from coal power plants in Europe is 38 % in average, but BAT provides a 46 % output. With gas the European power output averages 52 %, while BAT provides a 60 % output. It is economically feasibly to increase the efficiency by 4-5 % in all plants that are 20-30 years old, said Giles Dickson from the French power company Alstom.

Also in hydro power plants the potential is high.

– With systematic retrofitting, hydro power plants can increase efficiency with 30 %, said Dickson.

Alstom also asked for more harmonised regulation, because inspection and permit rules vary across Europe. 

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