Of the EU’s three 20-20-20 by 2020 goals (reduce greenhouse gas levels by 20%, increase share of renewable to 20%, and reduce energy consumption by 20%) it is the last which currently looks most precarious as a target. Of the EU’s three 20-20-20 by 2020 goals (reduce greenhouse gas levels by 20%, increase share of renewable to 20%, and reduce energy consumption by 20%) it is the last which currently looks most precarious as a target.This is unfortunate, as it ticks many boxes both in environmental, economic, competitiveness, and security of supply terms.  The EU now has a new Directive on Energy Efficiency, 2012/17/EU, which mandates the setting of indicative national energy efficiency targets, both general and sectoral measures, and monitoring and reporting systems.

However, work recently published by the European Coalition for Energy Savings suggests that of the 18 submitted national energy efficiency targets yet available, these range from the unambitious (such as France, Germany and the UK) through to those which are likely to result in the gap between the EU aspiration and reality being widened rather than narrowed (such as Estonia, Finland, Romania and Portugal).  A few are genuinely ambitious, including some countries facing real economic problems such as Ireland, Greece and Italy.  The Coalition notes that if we continue in the same vein with further targets (and countries for which targets are not yet publicly available include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden), the EU is likely to fall short in energy savings terms by 2020 by a figure roughly equivalent to the annual energy consumption of Belgium.  The Secretary General of the Coalition has also criticised the secrecy and lack of transparency in setting the targets, which has to a large extent excluded interested parties from what should be an open and inclusive process.  Those interested in exploring the matter further can use the Coalition’s “gapometer” to see individual member state performance. 

As the Government is finding, some areas of energy efficiency are difficult to progress – recent guidance by DECC and the Office of Fair Trading has pointed out some of the pitfalls (affordability and creditworthiness in particular) in the lending system which underpins the domestic “Green Deal”.    Moreover, the Green Deal has caused a massive decline over the last year in one of the most simple and effective energy efficiency measures, cavity wall insulation, according to figures reported in The Guardian on 29 May.  However, perhaps energy efficiency should start at home, i.e. with central government, – public expenditure makes up a large part of spending on energy, both here and in the EU generally, and many public buildings leave a huge amount to be desired in terms of their energy efficiency.  For new energy generation systems, combined heat and power is still not exploited at anywhere near its potential for energy savings.  As the new Directive points out, and indeed requires by Article 5, there needs to be a major programme of renovation of public buildings owned by central government.  Presumably there is little real hope of this however, when departmental budgets are being squeezed ever tighter.