The European Commission plans to impose binding energy-efficiency targets on EU member states, according to a report by EurActiv.
In June 2005 the EU opened the debate with its Green Paper on Energy Efficiency that argued the EU could save at least 20% of its present energy consumption by 2020 while reducing Europe's dependence on oil and gas imports and slashing greenhouse gases.
EU member states endorsed the Commission's proposals at their March 2006 summit, and urged the EU executive to follow-up with an action plan that is at the same time ambitious and realistic.
In October 2006, the Commission presented its Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, which comprised 75 measures in ten priority areas. These included energy performance standards for energy-using products such as boilers, copiers and lighting, new energy standards for buildings, and legislation to limit CO2 emissions from cars.
The report said that the most controversial initiative in the draft is a plan to introduce mandatory energy-saving obligations on member states "in line" with the EU's aspirational goal of using 20% less energy in 2020. The paper suggests that the targets could be either sector-specific, potentially limited to buildings, or cover all aspects of the economy.
However, the Commission stopped short of specifying whether the EU should set an absolute cap on each member state's emissions by 2020 or whether the savings would be in relation to their projected energy consumption. The final shape of the plan will emerge after an impact assessment has explored these options, as well as the likely need for burden-sharing measures between member states.
Environmentalists welcomed binding energy efficiency obligations but added that they would have to be absolute reduction targets.
Friends of the Earth Europe stressed that energy efficiency holds by far the cheapest emissions reduction potential and any efficiency targets would have to match overall EU CO2 cuts "based on climate science and the EU's historical responsibility for causing climate change."
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