European Commission's 2020 energy plan fails to impress

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The European Commission presented its new energy strategy yesterday (10 November), calling for €1 trillion of investment over the next decade to integrate Europe's energy network while fending off criticism over a lack of concrete ideas.
The Energy 2020 strategy lays down priorities in five broad areas. It seeks to curb Europe's energy consumption with financial incentives to renovate Europe's energy-guzzling buildings and integrate the European energy market.
Furthermore, it proposes to pursue an external EU energy policy, ensure Europe's leadership on innovative energy technologies and address consumer issues like making billing more transparent or making it easier to switch suppliers.
"Over the next ten years, overall energy infrastructure investments in the EU of euro one trillion are needed," the Commission said in a statement. "By 2015 no member state should be isolated."
The required investments would mainly come from the industry and consumers, who should prepare to finance some of the infrastructure costs with rising energy bills, said EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger. The EU budget's impact would be limited to projects of European interest and research, he added.
The Commission also addresses delays in strategic infrastructure projects by proposing simplified permitting processes and setting a time limit for EU funding decisions. Oettinger said he was confident that EU heads of state and government would endorse the strategy in February at a special summit focused on energy.
The Commission plans to propose concrete legislative initiatives in the next 18 months.
The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) criticised the Commission for "low-carbon rhetoric" rather than establishing a stable framework for renewable energy leading up to 2030. "A well-functioning, undistorted, internal energy market would give us the level playing field we have always argued for," said Arthouros Zervos, EREC president.
Green MEPs also criticised the strategy for bowing to the interest of large integrated energy companies. "The Commission seems to fawningly accept the market dominance of the big (German) energy oligopolies, with no measures planned to address this damaging distortion. It fails to deal with the elephant in the room: namely how to wean Europe of its damaging addiction to fossil fuels," said Turmes.
European business, however, cautioned that energy-saving measures should remain voluntary. Small businesses "must be incentivised to take them up rather than burdened with additional administrative requirements," said Eurochambres, which represents EU chambers of commerce.
The International Network for Sustainable Energy (INFORSE-Europe) regretted that the most direct new energy efficiency proposal in the strategy was the introduction of White Certificates to force supply companies to promote energy savings to their costumers. "Instead of White Certificates, which have a mixed track record in EU countries, the EU needs a bucket of new policies to reach the energy efficiency targets," the NGO network said. It called for more specific proposals for using EU funding like structural funds, energy efficiency levies on energy consumption, and transport measures beyond urban mobility and car labelling.