Building energy efficiency is key for Europe’s future and both public and private sectors could contribute to energy savings, EESC hearing concludes.
The EU must step up its efforts to promote energy efficiency and achieve those energy savings that are instrumental in the fight against the energy crisis and climate change. This is the main message behind the expert hearing held in Brussels and remotely by the European Economic and Social Committee’s Section for Transport, Energy, Infrastructure and the Information Society (TEN) on 6 October 2021.
Mentioning the importance of the European Green Deal as a top priority for Europe’s future, Baiba Miltoviča, TEN section president, said: “We need to turn our attention to the energy crisis that we are facing and that is now on our doorstep. We strongly believe that policies fighting climate change must reflect the reality of citizens’ everyday life. Citizens are suffering from the effects of climate change and the increasing prices of energy and transport. We need to stop the exploitation of natural resources, to urgently change how we produce and how we consume, and to build efficient energy systems.”
In the course of the debate, experts from the public and private sector exchanged ideas on the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive proposed by the European Commission in July 2021, which forms part of the Fit for 55 package.
Christian Egenhofer, representing the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), said that the energy crisis had created a new urgent need for energy efficiency, which was the only insurance against price spikes. He stressed that the best energy efficiency policy was electrification.
Referring to the energy crisis as an unfortunate mix of contingent factors, Claudia Canevari, from the European Commission’s DG ENER, said that the energy transition was meant to bring about a better deal for consumers and that the revised proposal for a directive focussed on the “energy efficiency first” principle, which was envisaged as an integral part of future policies and investment decisions.
Martin Pejřimovský, of the Czech Permanent Representation to the EU, stressed that the entire energy supply chain was experiencing a crunch at the moment because of the price of raw materials and that it was important to find measures that were helpful for decarbonisation and at the same time affordable for everybody and inclusive.
Félix Mailleux, representing the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), pointed to energy efficiency as a top priority for Europe, bearing in mind that the cheapest and cleanest energy was the energy we did not use. Europe needed to be more ambitious, because energy efficiency was an integral part of the decarbonisation process geared to reaching climate neutrality. Unfortunately, the revised directive did not set binding targets at national level, so a full implementation of the “energy efficiency first” principle was needed.
Speaking on behalf of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), Eoin Kelly highlighted the fact that a new energy efficiency directive was essential to effectively tackle the issue of energy poverty, to uphold consumer rights and protection in the heating and cooling sector and, finally, to reduce hurdles to building renovation.
On the business side, Stefanie Sieberer, representing EUROCHAMBRES, noted that energy consumption was intrinsically linked to economic growth, so for companies it was crucial to have a sufficient amount of energy available at affordable prices.
Speaking on behalf of the ČEZ Group energy company, Zuzana Krejčiříková emphasised that the revised directive could constitute a supportive tool for decarbonisation if based on realistic measures. More specifically, the new “energy efficiency first” principle should not be applied as a dogma, since sometimes it is more cost efficient to generate clean energy through Renewable Energy Systems (RES) rather than to save it.
Finally, Alena Mastantuono, rapporteur for the EESC opinion on the Energy Efficiency Directive that is currently being drafted, referred to the importance of assessing each initiative of the Fit for 55 package in terms of synergies with the others and concluded: “The energy transformation is hampered with the current situation in the energy market, which will certainly escalate in the coming winter. The EU and the Member States should use all possible tools to soften the impact of climate measures on citizens.”