Columnists: Rod Janssen, Independent consultant

Published on: 2 Nov 2012

The changing policy landscape

The final approval of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) in October is a major step forward in energy efficiency policy in Europe.  It marked the culmination of almost two years of intense discussions and negotiations over the future of energy efficiency in Europe and its place within energy policy.  Policymakers were guided by two major concerns:  energy security and the implications of climate change.  Energy security must remain a clear priority because security issues can recur in many forms for many reasons:  problems with energy supply countries, disruption of pipelines, radical swings in prices, refinery disasters and such.  There are still deeply divided views on whether the supply side can “solve” these problems or whether a better balance between supply- and demand-side concerns is needed to reinforce energy security and mitigate against the effects of climate change.  To some extent those two policy solitudes are still “living in silos,” but one has to agree that there have been changes for the better.

In the end, decision-makers showed less ambition than promoters of energy efficiency may have hoped for but nonetheless, there are still many challenges ahead. The approval only marks the culmination of phase one.

We can only hope that member states live up to their obligations.  They must transpose the directive and they must undertake several tasks to meet reporting obligations and to set various measures in motion.  These include getting energy companies to implement their energy efficiency obligations, start mandatory audits for large companies, design and implement required retrofits of public buildings, various initiatives related to heat consumption and so on.  Regardless of the actual target, these individual measures are complex and require the support of not only national governments but of the range of stakeholders.

The worry is that member states will use the current financial crisis to do the minimum.  We cannot afford this to happen.  The Commission is setting some activities in motion, such as bringing together experts in member states through a group called Concerted Action, and is encouraging initiatives such as through the Intelligent Energy Europe programme.  It is also trying to better mobilise EU financial instruments.

This is one time that the energy efficiency community has to be much more pro-active, supporting governments, supporting the energy efficiency industries and the full range of stakeholders.

Our societies are going through a massive transition towards a low carbon economy.  The roll out will take decades but will not happen without our own “concerted” actions.  Policymaking and implementation cannot happen in a vacuum.

I have been heartened by two events I participated in within the past two months.  First was a Re+Build retrofit conference in northern Italy in September where hundreds of committed buildings experts and local government officials from all over Italy were working together to find ways to ensure deep retrofits get off the ground in Italy.  It was not a one-off conference but the beginning of a process.  The results were most encouraging.

Secondly, I was a participant in a biennial congress on industrial energy efficiency in Berlin in late October.  There were top-level businessmen from 11 countries, including two outside Europe.  What struck me was the “positive-ness” of their messages and their approach.  They were blaming no one for the current situation, but instead were looking for ways forward to prepare for a bigger push forward.  There were presentations from investment funds to show that they were prepared to fund projects today.  The money is there.  There was an appreciation that decision-makers nationally and Europe-wide were once again taking the industry sector seriously in terms of promoting energy efficiency.  For too long there had been an attitude in energy efficiency policy that industry could do it alone.  Yes, SMEs needed help and there was the Emissions Trading System that would solve industry’s problems.  It doesn’t.   But the entire congress reflected an entirely new commitment to working together to achieve real impact.

Somehow the mood has changed in energy efficiency policy.  The passing of the Energy Efficiency Directive marks a new beginning.  Undoubtedly, it is weaker than many had wanted but it sets out a foundation that can be built upon.  Importantly, the European Commission is showing a commitment to actually implementing the Directive (and other related energy efficiency directives) in a manner more pro-active and enthusiastic than in recent memory.

Yes, some member states are struggling.  Their capacity has been depleted and this is where the energy efficiency community cannot allow national governments to feel that they are doing this alone.  If there was ever a need for partnership it is now.

We are dealing with change.  Energy and climate policies are in a transition that is working to our advantage if we seize it. The EED has firmly planted the demand side within overall energy and climate change policy in Europe.  This is a breakthrough.  The transition to a low carbon society has barely begun. eceee has a major role to play in this transition.

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 Rod Janssen

Oct 2016

Apr 2016

Nov 2011