Columnists: Hans Nilsson, Fourfact

Published on: 26 Mar 2012

The enemy within

We are about to witness a huge battle over energy efficiency in Europe when the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) enters the last stretch of a long running fight. The Commission adopted  its legislative proposal  back in June 2011 with the intention to close the gap to a 20% saving till 2020. The Parliament improved  the Commission’s  proposal  considerably when it was hauled through its Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) in a hailstorm of suggestions for changes. Now the Council, under the leadership of the Danish Presidency, is trying hard to do their part in finding consensus among the contentious factions of the Member States, almost all of whom seem to be firing on our common good and our future .

If the Parliamentary process was a hailstorm, the Council is, it appears, “Fire and brimstone” with a Biblical expression. No effort is saved from the capitals all over Europe to portray the EED as the end of civilization as we know it. It is amazing to see and hear that the same governments that ever so often stand up and praise energy efficiency as our best resource since it is cheap and clean, now fire everything they have to shoot it down. In spite of the fact that the EED is designed to release well documented profitable savings. The savings that pay for themselves. The “free lunch that you are paid to eat”. EED will, as Barroso, the head Commissioner, has communicated, save every European household 1000€ per year, create 2 million new jobs and reduce dependency on imported energy. No! – Say the capitals of Europe – We don’t want more money, more jobs and less energy dependency.

Why you may ask? And to the best of my understanding the arguments are mainly about subsidiarity. We want to decide ourselves, we don’t want Brussels to command us. Not even if it is good and provides a level playing field and common goals and tools for our common cause. An argument that is acceptable from a child who wants to gain it’s independence from parents, but come on! The capitals of Europe are supposed to be grown-ups!

Behind the arguments we may imagine some strong interest from energy supply industries that either gain their living from selling energy, regardless if it is useful or not, and from energy-using industries who want to safeguard their image as being rational.

When the battle is over we will probably have to face the new geopolitics for the future fight over energy efficiency. Brussels is becoming dead-locked! The opposing armies of the Commission, Council and European Parliament are camped out on distant hills, so far apart from each other that it will be difficult for them now to engage. A weak armistice or an extended cease fire are possibly the best outcomes we can expect.

The next battle line for the fight to achieve something that puts Europe on track and gives our industry hope to take a lead for a profound greening of markets and society will probably not be in Brussels, but be in the Member States. It will be guerilla and civil warfare, fought openly and sincerely, with blank weapons – but showing little mercy, as we all know that time is quickly running out!

ECEEE-members will now have to be more active on the home front because the enemy clearly is within!

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Hans Nilsson