UK fails to get around Energy Efficiency Directive but loopholes remain

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The European Commission has foiled an attempt by the UK to ‘wriggle out’ of its energy saving obligations as laid out in the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive (EED).

However a lawyer for Client Earth told PEi that without the EED being made legally binding in each member state there is no deterrent to these states who wish to get around the legislation.

European Commission

Loopholes already included in the directive allowed for a dilution of the headline 1.5 per cent annual energy savings obligation by up to a quarter, however Euractiv reported that Britain also wanted to add ‘early actions’ to its savings count, even if these were taken four years before – or three years after – the directive’s nominal 2014-2020 period.

This has now been ruled out of bounds in a Commission interpretation note, which says that while a limited derogation to the directive’s “temporal scope” has been provided for, this is conditioned on its not exceeding "a cap of 25 per cent".

Andreas Formosa, a lawyer for Client Earth told Power Engineering International, “the UK was the only one to try this trick and several other member states were really annoyed by it.”

The UK isn’t the only state looking to find a way of circumventing the EED and the Brussels-based lawyer believes the legislation needs to be strengthened if its objectives are to be met. Member states action plans are due to be delivered to Brussels soon but, so far, many are not good enough according to Formosa.

“Portugal and Romania’s energy consumption has dropped so much, because of the damage to their economies, but not because of energy efficiency measures, that they are basically proposing not to do anything, which defeats the purpose of the directive.

It’ll cost them in the long run because when they do get back to a state of economic recovery it will prove to be very expensive for them to make the transition.

The problem is these targets are not binding. At the end of 2014 the Commission will make the proposal for a review of the directive and we really would like to see binding targets being proposed.”

Another loophole that exists within the legislation involves an obligation on central government-owned buildings being renovated to meet energy efficiency criteria.

“It only applies to central government though so in a federation that doesn’t apply to many public buildings and the buildings have to be owned rather than rented.

Furthermore they have to have a surface area greater than 500 metres squared, even though that is reduced to 250 metres squared after 2015. It’s not the strongest of directives and has already been watered down.”

Formosa says the “next big battle” for renewable transition is the fact that some countries are against renewable targets after 2020, with the UK and Finland opposed to it due to their development of nuclear power.

“I think a renewables target is imperative because targets are what drive action.”

“Since the renewables directive we have seen year on year growth in the industry, which is also made them cheaper to produce. Now they are almost at a level where they can compete without subsidies against fossil fuels.”

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