Columnists: Hans Nilsson, Fourfact

Published on: 24 Jun 2009

More power to Brussels!

In the recent elections in the European Parliament political parties in all countries were competing in Euroscepticism. Even those who are basically in favour of the EU were keen to make a note that they want to reduce the influence from “Brussels”. It would, however, have been a good idea if they themselves acted in such a way so that “Brussels” did not have to use its power.

The Energy Commissioner Piebalgs often says (with a sigh) that if the countries only implemented the measures that they themselves have decided upon much of the goals regarding energy and climate would already have been achieved. If so, “Brussels” would not have to poke its nose into the affairs of the member countries.

This is, however, not the case. Countries are dragging their feet and redefining their obligations.  As long as this goes on we have to look to “Brussels” for help.  And think of their power as in the old saying about the role of perfume and hard liquor to smoothen human relations: “It is a shame that they are needed but fortunate that they exist!”

Calculating energy efficiency? – My way or no way!

Sweden has together with the partners in the EU decided upon the Energy Service Directive and has accepted the stated goal from the 2006 Energy Efficiency Action Plan to reduce energy use by  20 % from 2005 to 2020. It stipulates that there should be a reduction in real terms only compensated for the activity growth in the GDP. Growth in GDP was anticipated at 2.3% but energy growth will not follow since structural changes in the economy will lead to autonomous improvements of technologies and there will be some reductions depending on old energy policies.

If energy use would remain stable over these 15 years of anticipated economic growth the energy intensity (Energy per GDP) would actually improve (be reduced) by 29 %. The Action Plan (see page 8) however was aiming further by asking for new policies (as laid down in the Directive) and policies beyond the Directive totalling in a reduction of 20 % in energy use, which would mean roughly 40 % reduction in intensity (Energy per GDP). So the goal of 20 % reduction (i.e. 15% when compensated for the activity growth in the economy) will spell out in higher numbers if calculated as intensity.

In the newly presented bill in Sweden the government says that: “The Government thinks that the goal should have a different design compared to the EU Directive in order to better suit the goals of the Swedish energy policy”. This phrasing seems to be a “nicer” wording so that Sweden can wiggle out of the decisions it has agreed and subscribed to in the European institutions. So they propose to the Swedish parliament that the Swedish goal should be an intensity improvement of 20 %. The government opposition of course raises the bid to 25 %. In both cases we are far away from the 40 % that was the intention laid down in the Action Plan. In both cases it looks more likely that the Swedish energy use will grow rather than be reduced!

Brussels must have anticipated that there would be fiddling with the numbers since the Directive also stipulated that the goal should be expressed in absolute terms.

Close the loopholes

Sweden is certainly not the only country that has been creative in the implementation process. So Commissioner Piebalgs has good reasons to sigh – and to be counter-creative! Maybe that is exactly what we see in the new Directive “On the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles”.

This Directive requires that life cycle cost (LCC)-calculations should be used and prescribes HOW they should be performed. It would have been easy for “Brussels” to just stipulate LCC in general terms and to say the EU “most economically advantageous tender” (MEAT) should be accepted. But instead there are prescriptive tables for energy contents in fuels, valuation of different emissions, distances for different vehicles etc:  all to be used so the calculations are not changed to better suit local goals!

This detailed prescription in a Directive looks both reasonable and necessary as long as the implementation processes in the countries are derailed the way they are today. Until countries have learned to live up to their promises we have to hope and act for - more power to “Brussels”!


Other columns by Hans Nilsson