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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
EU sets 'ambitious' energy goals
Europe at night (Image: Science Photo Library/NOAA)
The EU is the world's second largest consumer of energy
An action plan to cut Europe's energy consumption by 20% before 2020 has been outlined by the European Commission.

More than 75 "ambitious" measures include tougher energy standards for electrical goods, a low-energy building strategy and more fuel efficient cars.

Officials say the proposals will deliver an annual saving of 100bn euros (67bn) and help the EU meet its Kyoto Protocol target to cut emissions by 8%.

The plan will be considered on Friday by EU leaders at a meeting in Finland.

"Energy efficiency is crucial for Europe," Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said. "By saving energy, Europe will address climate change, as well as its rising consumption and its dependency on fossil fuels imported from outside the European Union."

The Energy Efficiency Action Plan (EEAP), unveiled by Mr Piebalgs in Brussels, will be introduced over the next six years and has identified 10 priority areas, including:

  • updated eco-labels on electrical goods
  • possible legislation to deliver car emissions targets
  • encouraging investment in energy efficiency
  • making power plants more efficient
  • energy saving taxes and incentives

The action plan was the first formal document to be published since the adoption of an European energy strategy in March, and its contents will be considered by ministers at the EU Energy Council in November.

Mr Piebalgs said the Commissison felt it was important to focus on saving energy because "everything was in our hands".

ENERGY SAVING POTENTIAL 2020
Households - 27%
Businesses - 30%
Transport - 26%
Manufacturing - 25%
(Source: European Commission)

Therefore, he added, the EEAP would also look at ways to increase awareness among consumers about the need for greater efficiency.

"People should understand that each time they waste energy by opening a window they are not only actually destroying the potential to buy goods or save money, they are also making the climate warmer even through this small emission," he told reporters.

'Enforcement needed'

Representatives of electrical goods industry said they were pleased that the EEAP included the idea of offering incentives such as tax credits to manufacturers who improve the energy efficiency of their products.

Luigi Meli, director-general of the European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED), said it was a positive but essential step.

"It is already operational in the US, and will be operational in China very soon and we see it as fundamental for the competitiveness of our industry."

He said the sector had already delivered energy savings of more than 40% in recent years, but he expressed concern that the proposals appeared to be weak in terms of measures to ensure the energy saving goals were enforced.

"We see too many free riders on the market," Mr Meli told BBC News. "This is proving to be a disadvantage to established brands.

"We are ready to face ambitious targets but I think it is fair that industry asks the authorities to meet their obligations in terms of market enforcement."

Enviromental groups backed the goal of cutting Europe's energy consumption, but feared the proposals outlined in the EEAP would struggle to meet the target.

"The Commission's target to reduce energy wastage is welcome, but education and voluntary measures are not going to cut it alone," said Greenpeace's EU climate and energy director, Mahi Sideridou.

"If the EU is serious about becoming the most energy efficient region in the world, the 20% target must be at the heart of all policy areas."







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