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EU to place efficiency at heart of energy security plans

Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger says new demand cutting target will be proposed in September

(Pic: Flickr/President of the European Council)

(Pic: Flickr/President of the European Council)

By Ed King

Brussels could propose tougher energy efficiency targets for member states by September, the EU’s energy chief Gunther Oettinger revealed today.

Speaking at the launch of the region’s energy security strategy, which aims to shift it away from its addiction to Russian gas imports, he said reducing demand was an essential part of the EU plans.

“Energy efficiency and energy savings can be an initial response to energy dependence on imports and that needs to be our focus in coming years,” he said.

Current EU-wide targets commit states to boosting efficiency 20% by 2020. The EU’s 2030 climate and energy package, released in January, did not set a new efficiency goal.

Some countries like the UK oppose any mandatory goals on top of this, arguing EU countries should follow the carbon-cutting path that suits them best.

But as RTCC revealed last week, the EU’s latest strategy reveals deep concern over the level of energy wasted, especially in the building sector, which is responsible for about 40% of energy consumption.

“A third of natural gas used could be cut by up to three quarters if the renovation of buildings is speeded up,” the document says.

The vulnerability of member states to global price shocks or sharp cuts in supply has been highlighted by the recent conflict over Ukraine, which controls many of the pipelines delivering gas from east to west.

The EU imports 39% of its gas from Russia, a figure which rises to 66% when you take into account other gas imports from Algeria, Libya and Qatar.

Overall the bloc imports 53% of energy it consumes, costing it €1 billion a day.

“The Union must reduce its external dependency on particular suppliers by diversifying its energy sources, suppliers and routes,” says the strategy.

“Notably, a reinforced partnership with Norway, the acceleration of the Southern Gas Corridor and the promotion of a new gas hub in Southern Europe should all be pursued.”

The document highlights the need for €200 billion investment in energy infrastructure, particularly interconnectors capable of delivering gas and electricity across the continent.

It also stresses the importance of investing more in ‘domestic’ sources of energy, such as shale gas and renewable energy technologies, which contributed 14.1% of final energy consumption in 2012.

More wind and solar capacity will require “smarter energy grids and new energy storage solutions” says the EU, which has a 20% of clean energy target for 2020, and 27% for 2030.

In a statement EU climate chief Connie Hedegaard said clean energy allied with efficiency measures were the “two key ingredients” that would ensure security and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Europe is already saving 30 billion euro a year by replacing imported fossil fuels with locally produced renewable energy,” she said.

“In other words, we invest the money here in Europe instead of sending it to Putin’s Russia and other fossil fuel providers outside Europe.”

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