Overview on Energy

The Energy Union: the five points of the Union’s policy

Published on 25th February 2015, the European file dedicated to the EU’s energy policy is the starting point for current and future decisions of the Union in relation to energy in all its forms. Energy efficiency is one of the cornerstones of this policy.

«Energy efficiency is a very complicated topic». It is with this sentence that Samuele Furfari, Energy Director-General at the European Commission, starts off at the 7th Day on energy efficiency in the industry, organised in Milan (Italy) by the Megalia Foundation (Fondazione Megalia), in collaboration with Assolombarda, last 23rd April.

«With the Energy Union Europe supports the integration of the energy policy with the other EU policies, in order to strengthen the economy and competitiveness of the Member Countries», Samuele Furfari, Deputy Director-General at the Directorate-General for Energy – European Commission.
«With the Energy Union Europe supports the integration of the energy policy with the other EU policies, in order to strengthen the economy and competitiveness of the Member Countries», Samuele Furfari, Deputy Director-General at the Directorate-General for Energy – European Commission.

This is a precise and undoubtedly true sentence. There has been an ongoing debate in Europe for years and, fortunately, awareness that efficiency is the first real form of energy saving is increasing. On 25th February 2015 the «Energy Union», i.e. the file outlining the European energy policy, was published.

The EU is aware that the economic crisis that we are experiencing demands an urgent response, in particular in order to ensure that energy prices do not continue to increase; it is an enormous problem if one considers that the continent has registered a 20% increase in the cost of electrical energy itself in just five years.

The five cornerstones of the file

The five points of the European Union’s energy policy strategy are outlined in the Energy Union.

The first task is to ensure energy supplies within European borders. «This is nothing new», explains Furfari, «back in the Fifties the idea was brought up that there could be no future for the Union without abundant energy and an efficient market. On average we import 55% of our energy requirements into the EU and some countries depend on one single main supplier for gas imports. The project is to obtain more energy in Europe, diversifying, however, sources and suppliers, so as to improve the safety of our energy supply».

The second point concerns the construction of a full and genuine internal energy market – both for electrical and gas energy – which will have to be accompanied by new infrastructures, particularly in areas between borders.

It is in the third point that developing energy efficiency is specifically mentioned. «It is not a question only of the will to develop sustainably», explains Furfari, «it is much more; it is firstly rationale. The Commission will undertake a review of the legislation on this topic».

The preparation of the COP21 (Conference of the parties), the Paris conference on global climate change, which will be held next December, is the fourth cornerstone of the file. «In this section the Commission has also introduced the policy on renewable energy, with a target of 27% by 2030». It is precisely because of the Paris meeting that the G7 summit, held in Elmau in Bavaria on 8th June, established a further cut in global climate emissions of between 40 and 70% compared with the 2010 levels.

Finally the last section of the file supports research and development in the energy sector. «We need to also develop a new vision within the Member States about the Energy Union, starting with a governance system which is trustworthy, transparent and integrated».

Il secondo punto riguarda la costruzione di un completo e vero mercato interno dell’energia – sia dell’energia elettrica sia del gas – che dovrà essere accompagnato da nuove infrastrutture, soprattutto nelle zone tra le frontiere.

Europe for energy efficiency

Europe has done a lot over the years on the subject of energy efficiency, pursuing policies to stimulate its use. First of all, «it has been integrated in a very determined way in all sectors – household electrical appliances, industry, transport, construction industry – with both national and local policies which have brought about a fall of 19% in energy intensity between 2001 and 2011, thanks to new technologies and a propensity towards competitiveness». A series of EU initiatives has then contributed to its spread, from the 2012/27/EU legislation on energy efficiency to the Horizon 2020 programme which supplies finance for projects operating in this sector.

«In the last years, therefore, we have made progress, arriving at a 15% reduction in the consumption of primary energy compared with 1990», comments the director. «The crisis has certainly had a bearing», encouraging recourse to solutions for energy saving, «but it is a tendency which will continue – although to a lesser extent – precisely due to the policies developed during these years. We are going in the right direction and the 2020 target on energy consumption appears achievable».

The other important policy that Europe has supported and pushed for during these years is with regard to Ecodesign and Ecolabelling, «with 40 measures in place in the sector of energy efficiency, 13 types of different labels and 24 Community regulations on Ecodesign which introduce the requirement to be efficient in all products which consume electrical energy or heat». Rigorous measures to the extent that it has been decided that «products which do not meet these Community regulations cannot be sold in Europe».

Finally «in the field of European Structural Funds we have introduced, for 2014-2020, the requirement to spend 10-15% in the European regions on energy efficiency and renewable projects».

Looking again at the European directive

With regard to the directive 27/2012, one of the projects planned by the Energy Union, as has been stated, is to consider a review of it. As Furfari explains, such a procedure does not call for a complete overturning of its structure, when it is still in the process of being recognised by the Members States. «In as far as it involves the industry, it is first anticipated to improve the implementation of the energy audit, provided for by article 8, which will be better defined. At the moment we must wait, since the transposition of this article into national laws is anticipated by December 2015. We know, however, that there are difficulties for multinational companies which have to apply different regulations from state to state, and we are trying to check how to improve the implementation. Furthermore, we are also assessing the results from the implementation of the audit to understand what more can be done in addition to consumption monitoring».

For the TEE (Energy Efficiency Certificates), which the directive covers in article 7, «Europe must wait for the report on the implementation of the system anticipated by 2016». Whilst the maximum limit of energy consumption will certainly be reviewed, covered in article 3, to the extent that «to reach the target of 27% by 2030 it will be necessary to reduce end-user consumption».

Space to heating… and not just that

In the Energy Union file Europe has also established a series of other actions. The willingness to deal with the heating sector, for example, is the most important development. «H&C, or rather heating and cooling, represents 50% of the use of energy by end-users, against electricity which is only 22%», explains the director. «We need to have a structured strategy on H&C and, first of all, review the data, in order to identify the problems and prepare, by the end of 2015, a concrete proposal to be implemented in this sector, to present to the COP21 in Paris». An important subject, therefore, also covered during the Sustainable Energy Week in Brussels (15-19 June 2015) with particular relevance to industry and the topic of cogeneration.

Still on the matter of the file, another change will be concerning the 2010/31/EU directive for buildings – better known as EPBD (Energy Performance Building Directive) – and the 2010/30/EU directive on energy labelling. «The EPBD at the moment seems to be efficient and we do not yet know if it will have to be reviewed, however the requirement to review in 2016 will give the opportunity to hone some of its mechanisms. Energy labelling also seems to be working well and the only action which is being considered is with regard to a change in the scope of the directive in order to simplify the public’s understanding, creating a new scale of values».

Energy efficiency will also certainly fall within the scope of interest of the Juncker plan – after the name of the current President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker – which «provides funds of 315 billion Euros. Sustainable development will be one of the criteria to identify which projects will be able to be financed». Whilst for renewable energy, continues Furfari, we shall have to review the financing mechanisms, in as much as we have realised that the system, as it is structured now, is not sustainable. Finally, great attention to transport; in this sector the need to introduce greater energy efficiency is felt and, in particular, Europe foresees the use of gas throughout the sector.

Ready for an efficient future

«We are determined to continue with energy efficiency policies», continues the director. «As a Commission we supply the guidelines, encouragement and finance but those who have to implement concrete actions are industry, first of all, and individual people».

Substantial help will also certainly come from technological progress. «The new smart city, smart grid and smart metering concepts, of which there is so much spoken, must lead to energy efficiency. Electronics and IT allow us to prepare for a different future and can help us deal with our limits, replacing human behaviour with technology». From this point of view, «I believe that we are entering a phase of real energy efficiency, at least in Europe and in developed countries. Undoubtedly, we must stop selling energy efficiency as something negative, we must change this consideration into what it really is, a product with added value. This», concludes Furfari, «is the vision that we have in Europe».