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EU plan to hit energy saving goal, save billions

Brussels, November 14, 2011

The EU could cut its fuel import bill by 50 billion euros a year, households could save thousands and jobs would be created under a new plan to make the bloc's energy efficiency target work as intended, an influential European parliamentarian said.

Of the European Union's set of 2020 green energy targets, improving energy efficiency by 20 percent is the one goal that is not legally binding - and it is the one that so far the bloc is unlikely to achieve.

Claude Turmes, vice president of the Greens in the European Parliament, has put forward an amendment to be published this week so it can be discussed, which seeks to share out the burden of improving efficiency.

"This is part of the solution to the economic crisis. We need a haircut (discount) on our energy debt," Turmes told Reuters in an interview.

A spokeswoman for the European Union's energy commissioner had no comment.

Turmes' proposal follows on from a Commission proposal requiring governments to put forward national efficiency targets, with the proviso that mandatory national goals could be set in 2014 if the Commission decided progress on meeting the 20 percent cut were insufficient.

So far, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Netherlands and Britain have not submitted any national goals, a copy of Turmes' amendment seen by Reuters showed.

"Given the relative hostility of some states to the proposal from the Commission, we offer to governments for the first time an annexe on a burden-sharing proposal," Turmes said.

The EU is on course for its two binding goals - to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent and to increase the share of renewable energy in the mix by 20 percent by 2020.

Turmes' hope is that Denmark, which is known to have a strong commitment to an environmental agenda and takes over from Poland in the EU's rotating presidency next year, will be able to build momentum behind his proposal to accelerate progress on making the national targets binding.

Efficiency measures can include double-glazing, roof insulation and replacement of inefficient hearing systems.

"Let's be serious and look at the figures, which I propose. Let's try to have a serious discussion with the Danish presidency and see if we cannot solve this based on national targets," Turmes said.

His "political analysis" was that most EU nations should have no problem with his proposed binding targets on sharing out a cut needed in primary energy consumption of at least 368 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

But burden-sharing is controversial in the EU and governments such as Britain, well-known for taking issue with any perceived extension of EU power, would object to Brussels handing down detailed measures, he said.

From an economic as well as an environmental perspective, Turmes said the arguments were powerful.

"The EU is spending more than 400 billion euros ($549 billion) per year to import energy," a note attached to the proposed amendment said.

"Realising the minimum 20 percent energy savings target will not only enhance our energy security but also reduce by at least 50 billion euros per year the wealth transfer from EU economies to energy producing countries."

In contrast, the business-as-usual scenario - in which energy efficiency will improve by only 10 percent - might be generating profits for utilities, but costs consumers dearly.

"Current efforts will achieve only half of the target, wasting 1,000 euros per household," the proposal says.

As a further bonus, renovating houses to make them more energy efficient could create many jobs, as well as ensuring Europe stays at the forefront of a shift towards greener technology, Turmes said. - Reuters




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