MEPs welcome voluntary energy efficiency deals

Commission proposals for energy efficiency action plans largely accepted by parliament rapporteurs

Two European Parliament committees will tomorrow be asked to endorse and discuss a Commission action plan to improve energy efficiency in several industries by voluntary agreements.

In a draft report, the rapporteur for the committee on industry, external trade, research and energy Anders Wijkman largely welcomes the Commission's bid to cut energy intensity by 12% over ten years by striking national or EU voluntary agreements with several industries (ENDS Daily 27 April 2000).

The action plan also involves the Commission's becoming more active in coordinating and overseeing such agreements.

The practise of voluntary agreements has taken off in several member states and some deals have been struck at EU-level (ENDS Daily 6 October 1998). If fully successful, voluntary agreements could account for 40% of the EU's greenhouse gas reduction commitment under the Kyoto protocol.

Swedish centre-right MEP Wijkman warns, however, that voluntary schemes must be "dynamic" and that minimum standards must be raised along with improvements in technology. He also sees room for improvement on a number of points in the draft action plan. Importantly, it needs priorities and "clear...quantitative and qualitative targets."

A wider, more systematic approach, and "substantial [financial and staff] resources" are crucial to the plan's success, he writes. He recommends that a "European energy programme agency" be set up to "strengthen coordination, implementation...follow-up and sharing of best practises" in energy efficiency.

Even though the draft report hails an upcoming draft directive on enhanced energy efficiency in public buildings (ENDS Daily 7 November 2000), it says the action plan does not go far enough for any real progress to be made in the transport and building sectors, accounting for 25% and 40% of EU energy demand respectively.

A draft opinion to be discussed in the parliament's environment, public health and consumer policy committee tomorrow backs him up on this point. Mr Wijkman goes on to advocate a harmonisation of technical standards, building codes, energy labels and voluntary agreements on the EU level. Both papers regret the lack of specific proposals to boost combined heat and power use in the EU.

Moreover, neither committee rapporteur is willing to renege on a 1999 parliamentary resolution for the EU to aim for an annual energy intensity reduction of 2.5% compared to "business-as-usual." Here, they accuse the Commission - which has proposed an annual reduction of only 1% (ENDS Daily 30 April 1998) - of being "very pessimistic."

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: 32 2 284 21 11, the draft report can be downloaded here, and the draft opinion here; the draft energy efficiency action plan.

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