Green Paper on energy efficiency
The Commission wishes to relaunch European Union (EU) action in energy saving using this Green Paper. It invites public authorities to make citizens and businesses more accountable by rewarding energy saving behaviour. Energy efficiency is a major challenge as current developments in energy consumption threaten the environment and the economic growth of the EU. Efforts must be made in the transport, energy production and building sectors in particular.
Commission Green Paper, 22 June 2005, "Energy Efficiency - or Doing More With Less" [COM(2005) 265 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Why save energy?
The EU depends on energy imports for 50% of its current consumption, a figure that could reach 70% by 2030. This high level of dependence is added to the expected depletion of traditional energy resources and the insufficient development of renewable resources, three factors that require energy demand to be controlled in order to do more with less.
In the Green Paper, the Commission estimates that the EU could reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020, which would release a sum of EUR 60 billion per year for other investments. Such a level of saving would have a positive impact on EU citizens in two ways. It would reinforce the competitiveness of European industry within the framework of the Lisbon agenda and could lead to the creation of a million jobs in related fields (transport management, high energy efficiency technologies, etc.). A 20% energy saving would also allow the EU to meet its Tokyo commitments by reducing CO2 emissions in order to protect a healthy environment for the citizens of today and tomorrow.
In which areas could energy efficiency be strengthened?
If current consumption trends continue, energy consumption in Europe will rise by 10% in the next fifteen years. The Commission intends to reverse this trend by combating the main forms of energy waste.
The first sector with a high energy saving potential is transport, representing a third of the EU's total consumption. The dominance of road transport and its high level petrol dependence are accompanied by congestion and pollution problems which add to energy waste.
Another area affected by the improvement of energy efficiency is energy production itself. Depending on the technology used, 40 to 60% of energy necessary for electricity production is lost in the production process.
Finally, important progress can be made in the buildings sector, either in houses or offices. Heating and lighting buildings counts for nearly 40% of energy used in the EU and could be managed more efficiently.
Applying existing measures and thinking of new ones
The Commission emphasises energy saving actions already launched at European level. Out of the 20% of possible savings that could be made by 2020, 10% could result from the full application of existing legislation, particularly in the transport, heat production and buildings sectors. Effectively implementing the Intelligent Energy - Europe (2007-13) programme is equally important before launching new initiatives. Instruments for improving energy efficiency in the EU exist and so must be used.
The other 10% of energy savings require new laws and new behaviour to be adopted by all players concerned, i.e. across all public authorities, industries and individuals. The Commission therefore proposes practical energy saving measures in different sectors to meet the objective of 20% by 2020.
Avenues opened by the Green Paper
In the transport sector, tax schemes favouring clean and economical vehicles must be put in place to ensure that the polluter really pays. Similarly, manufacturers supporting energy efficiency must be rewarded and consumers must be made accountable for issues such as tyre pressure, use of public transport and car pools. The Commission also wishes to finance research and the development of alternative fuels. Finally, it calls for better road and air traffic management on a continental scale to limit congestion and pollution, particularly by using the applications of the GALILEO programme.
In the buildings sector, the Commission intends to encourage industry and consumers to use their energy better through more economical technology and behaviour. Replacing light bulbs, boilers and refrigerators with better performing appliances should be encouraged. However, the stand-by function in electrical appliances seems to be a significant source of electricity waste. The Commission points out that households can save significant amounts by being more careful with their energy use, and invites construction companies to apply the legislation transposed at national level in 2006.
In the industrial sector, the Commission invites businesses to invest in more efficient technology to produce more with less energy. Public authorities must be ready to take action if market mechanisms are not sufficient to give an incentive for energy saving. In the long term, investing in efficient technology allows businesses to reduce their production costs and to be more competitive. Europe can also reinforce its place in the energy efficient technology market and lead the debate on energy saving on a global level.
Five years after the Commission's action plan of 2000-06 on energy efficiency, this Green Paper attempts to relaunch the debate at all levels of European society, to find solutions adapted to this urgent and universal problem. Consultation with all interested parties should lead to concrete measures, for example national action plans to establish best practice in terms of energy saving. This would allow the EU to operate at the centre of the international effort against climate change and depletion of energy resources.