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EU Commissioner for Energy

Future directions for energy efficiency and renewable policies

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Keynote speech at European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW)

Brussels, 23 March 2010

Dear Minister, Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,


The European Sustainable Energy Week is a testimony to the changes which the European Union can make on the ground, when it comes together in a common cause.

From small beginnings in 2005, the Sustainable Energy Week is now a Europe wide event which includes hundreds and thousands of people in many countries and cities. In parallel, Europe has moved from having, frankly, no energy policy to speak of, to having fully fledged sustainable energy targets, a raft of renewables and energy efficiency legislation, and some of the most forward looking sustainable energy policies in the world. It is thanks to people such as yourselves that we have achieved this.

I have not only come here to congratulate you!

Creating a sustainable economy is as challenging as ever. We only have to think about the disappointment of Copenhagen to remind ourselves of the magnitude of our task. But let me be clear. As Energy Commissioner, I will push for the policies and programmes which Europe needs to make the transition to deliver its commitments by 2020. In parallel, the stage for large levels of decarbonisation by 2050 will also be set without delay.

A few weeks ago, the Commission adopted its Europe 2020 strategy for a sustainable, competitive, innovative and inclusive Europe. You are at the heart of this. EU 2020 gives prominence to the energy and climate targets. It confirms that, essentially, we are travelling in the right direction. But we also need to accelerate progress.

In the last year, we have already come a long way. Let me cover what I see as the five critical enablers we need to build on.

(1) Policy implementation

I would like to start with the key to our success: implementation. This means, transposing not just the words, but the spirit and original intention. Since energy efficiency and renewable measures by their very nature are fragmented, successful implementation will require coordination at all levels. The Commission will continue its active support to initiatives designed to promote best practices such as the Covenant of Mayors and the Smart Cities.

But we will not refrain from using also other instruments at our disposal, including legal means if necessary. The regulatory framework must be applied in full.

Building on events such as this week, we also have to continuously review the framework we have in place to improve the support to our policies. This is valid for legislative aspects as well as financial support. On the latter, I am not convinced that it is up to the task. Take infrastructure for example: Europe will need to replace about half of its power generation capacity until 2030. Whilst this offers a unique political opportunity to bring about the carbon-free society, it also implies considerable financing needs primarily from industry but also from public authorities to cover special risks.

Reaching our goals in renewables and energy efficiency means creating well above 1 million new jobs for Europe. Do you know many such attractive investments?

(2) Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is the most cost effective method to improve energy security. Many investments into lighting efficiency, appliance efficiency and insulation of existing buildings pay off within a few years. The provisions of the new buildings Directive are expected to help citizens save around 300€ per year per household for energy bills.

It is with this in mind that my services are currently evaluating the results so far in order to draw a new framework for energy efficiency policy.

Energy efficiency will rank high up on the EU policy agenda - where it belongs.

Based on an evaluation of the current Energy Efficiency Action Plan of 2006 we will tackle the paradox that existing energy efficiency measures are still not pursued to the full. And this despite the triple dividends for energy security, environment and climate action, and, often forgotten, the consumers' wallet.

The currently implemented measures will only lead to reaching a good half of our 20 % savings objective.

We will focus on areas which are both cost-effective and can best deliver added-value for Member States' national energy efficiency policies. This will include:

  • The mainstreaming of energy efficiency into other EU policies, such as regional policy where minimum requirements should be obligatory. Similarly, transport policy or industrial policy should contribute.

  • The use of market-based instruments, e.g. energy taxation and green public procurement.

  • We are considering reviewing existing legislation such as on Energy Services and Combined Heat and Power.

  • In the building sector the focus will be on the availability of appropriate funding schemes to step up the renovation rate.

  • And we will of course continue rolling-out our ambitious programme on the energy efficiency of products. Where relevant, we will encourage voluntary agreements.

(3) Renewables

The European Union has also made a clear commitment to increase the share of renewable energy and reach 20% in the final energy consumption by 2020.

The Forecast Documents, submitted by the Member States recently, have already confirmed the European ambition. According to these, the EU should even exceed its 20% target by 2020. But there is no room for complacency, further progress is expected:

  • Firstly, we must engage all levels of society. The Intelligent Energy funding programme will provide its contribution. I am pleased to announce that this year's application period starts today with €56 million available.

  • Secondly, there is an urgent need to reduce administrative barriers to development of renewable energy projects and the needed infrastructures.

  • Thirdly, the heating sector must be addressed in order to use the huge potential for renewable energy deployment. It is an important sector where energy efficiency and renewable energy polices should complement each other.

  • Fourthly, we have to introduce new criteria in the development of the electricity network. We will need smart grids, but also strong long-distance power transmission and new interconnectors. This will require finance. The Energy Infrastructure Package which I plan to propose later this year will address these challenges.

  • Lastly, we must urgently tackle the transport sector. Biofuels will play a key role in making this happen, but of course have to meet the agreed sustainability criteria. In addition, there are high expectations for the electric vehicle technology to deliver. One of my priorities is to create the right framework for this to happen.

(4) Technology

But all these ambitions will not materialise without addressing the technology front.

Currently we are regulating, stimulating and, in some cases, subsidising the market introduction. Making all these technologies competitive largely depends on an accelerated technological development. This is the aim of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan.

The plan has already led to real changes in the way that the EU pursues energy technology. The Technology Platforms in Wind, Solar, Bio-energy, CCS, Nuclear, Smart Grids and Smart Cities developed technology road-maps for the period 2010-2020 to make a step change in the technology learning curves.

We know that we need to strongly increase investment in technology development. Our estimation is that we should move from the current € 3 billion per year to € 8 billion per year. This will be coming mainly from industry and Member States, but also from the EU budget. Two weeks ago we got strong political support, both from the Council and the European Parliament to this SET-Plan.

The preparation for the new research programme at EU level is about to start. My intention here is not only to strengthen the place of energy within the new instruments but to achieve a true concentration of our means in support to the identified Road Map. This should allow us to concentrate on projects of high value added with clearly defined objectives and performance levels.

(5) 2050 Outlook

We have begun work on the long term vision for energy policy up to 2050. This is not as far distant as it sounds if we take into account the long time lag between energy planning and implementation.

Our 2020 agenda lays the foundations. But it will not be enough. We will need bold and momentous changes, which will affect the lives of everyone. We will begin our discussions with a first outline of the possible routes to decarbonisation in June. I strongly encourage all of you to contribute to the stakeholder consultation later this year.


The Lisbon Treaty gives us a clear legal basis to develop this policy agenda. As the European Energy Commissioner I am determined to make use of it.

Our goals are ambitious – but achievable as examples are showing. I want to take advantage of this political momentum to push things ahead in the years to come.

Despite the unsatisfactory outcome in Copenhagen and the difficult economic situation – or, shall I say, precisely for these reasons – Europe has to continue to pursue proactive and visionary policies on energy efficiency and renewable energy. This is not only about reducing fuel bills, it is about our competitiveness and our jobs.

I strongly count on your expertise. Let me wish you a very fruitful week. I look forward to meeting many of you throughout the week and hear from your creative solutions.

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