The EU Commission recently completed a public consultation process for a review of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), to collect views from stakeholders on the framework and policies needed to achieve the EU 2030 energy efficiency target. The EED has been in force since 2012 and while it has contributed to upscaling energy efficiency efforts in the EU, more is still to be done so that the EU will reach its 2030 energy efficiency target. On the current trajectory, the EU will only achieve 17,6% energy efficiency in 2020, thereby already missing its intermediary 2020 energy efficiency target of 20% energy efficiency.
Energy Cities calls for the revised EED to reinforce the role of local authorities, so they can tap into their full energy efficiency potential. Here are, in a nutshell, the recommendations brought forward in our response to the EED consultation.
In our view, the revised EED should address three key issues to harness the local energy efficiency capabilities:
- Localize energy efficiency policy
- Redirect investments towards local energy savings
- Foster the exchange of energy efficiency best practices
Localize energy efficiency policy
The revised Directive should strengthen the EU’s current energy savings trajectory by translating the EU’s energy efficiency ambition by 2030 into binding national targets. In Member States like Hungary, Poland or Cyprus, energy saving measures would have been introduced to a much lesser extent without the EED. Local and regional energy efficiency policies and measures should inform the nationally binding energy efficiency targets. Lawmakers in Member States should monitor how much local energy savings are contributing to the national target. This valuable information could help remove local energy savings bottlenecks.
Data from the 5000 Sustainable Energy Action Plans (SEAPs) submitted by signatories of the Covenant of Mayors could be used to influence and co-design national energy efficiency targets. In Georgia, the ambitious energy efficiency targets of cities’ SEAPs were introduced into the country’s INDC ahead of the COP21 in Paris.
A revised EED that takes fully into account the local energy savings potential should include a specific chapter on local energy efficiency, which particularly emphasizes leveraging high energy-efficient cogeneration and district heating at the local level.
Redirect investments towards local energy savings
Firstly, the EU should be serious about its commitment to decarbonize the energy system by 2050 by introducing in Article 7 of the EED (energy savings obligation) a phase-out plan for fossil fuel subsidies which would be then redirected to local energy efficiency measures, such as the retrofitting of buildings where there is still much work to be done to achieve an annual renovation rate of 3%.
Secondly, the EU should ensure through Article 7 of the EED in particular a long-term stable environment for energy efficiency investments at the local level. Moreover, the EU and the EIB should provide in their funding programs (e.g. Structural Funds, Juncker Plan, ELENA) priority access to local energy efficiency projects and increase technical assistance and capacity-building efforts to local authorities. That way, the latter would acquire the capability to develop bankable energy efficiency projects that provide a solid return rate of investment. Before throwing away billions worth of taxpayers’ money at building new gas infrastructure, the priority must be given to tapping local energy efficiency potential first.
Thirdly, by reforming the Eurostat rules of public debt and deficit, energy efficiency investment by private third parties (energy performance contracting) would no longer be classified as public debt in the account balance of local authorities. Such a move would empower local authorities to drive investment in energy efficiency and become the frontrunners of the transition towards a sustainable and efficient energy system.
Foster the exchange of energy efficiency best practices
A narrow focus on demand response and smart meters will not push the EU and its cities towards tapping into the full local energy efficiency potential. Technology is not the main driver for enhancing energy efficient behavior among citizens. The strongest enabler are local energy efficiency projects that are carried out in close collaboration with citizens and all other stakeholders (local entrepreneurs, house owners, etc.). This can take many forms - from a "race to the energy efficient top" among tenants in the Romanian city of Bistrita to social energy savings projects in Frankfurt am Main in Germany, where formerly homeless people are retrained as energy auditors and help low-income households tap into their energy savings potential. Energy Cities’ members and other local authorities all across Europe have engaged into countless projects and measures that have contributed to energy efficiency and increasing the quality of life for citizens. Energy Cities’ best practice database is full of such success stories!
In the revised EED chapter on local energy efficiency, the EU should strengthen the capacity of city networks and energy efficiency communities not only in promoting best practice local energy efficiency examples across the EU, but also empower them to facilitate knowledge exchange among local authorities so that best practices can be upscaled and replicated across Europe. The EU needs its local authorities to drive forward energy efficiency and the transition to a sustainable energy system - let’s get it done!
Other position papers of Energy Cities can be found here.
Copyright small photo homepage: PhotographyByMK/www.shutterstock.com
Copyright big photo: Figueres Municipality