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EU Sustainable Energy Week 2011: Energy efficiency, regional action and innovative financing

18 April 2011
EU Sustainable Energy Week 2011: Energy efficiency, regional action and innovative financing

BRUSSELS: April 11 to 15 2011 saw the EU’s Sustainable Energy Week take place in Brussels, where the core themes that emerged were energy efficiency, action at sub-national level and the development of new models for public-private project financing. Amongst the 20-20-20 goals set out in the EU’s Energy and Climate Package, reducing Europe’s primary energy consumption by 20% compared to projections by 2020 is the one target which is not on track – a situation the Commission aims to rectify with a new set of initiatives over the next few months.

Speakers at the high-level opening session unanimously highlighted the immense benefits of energy efficiency, not only as a cost-efficient means of climate change mitigation, but also as a way to reduce Europe’s energy dependence and increase its global competitiveness. Speaking at the event, Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship and Vice-President, European Commission, highlighted that renewable energy solutions and efficiency technologies offer exciting new market opportunities, where Europe must keep a leadership position.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy, European Commission, underlined clean technologies’ role in creating highly skilled jobs inside Europe; the existing and proposed energy efficiency measures alone could create or secure up to 2 million jobs.

The Coalition for Energy Savings of which The Climate Group is a member, is advocating for a binding efficiency target instead of the current non-binding indication. Although Europe will not achieve its efficiency goal with current measures, Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Energy, European Commission, is delaying this decision until a further evaluation in 2013 – a date many fear will be too late to achieve 2020 goals. As Thomas Barrett, Director of New Products and Special Transactions, EIB argued, clear political guidance is needed to channel private investments in the required direction. Reaping the energy efficiency potential will require the activation of substantial funds and engagement with multiple individual actors.

Many events throughout the week focused on the role of sub-national governments in developing locally adapted programs. The Commission’s Energy Efficiency Plan published a few weeks ago aims to create more flexibility to finance energy efficiency measures through structural and cohesion funds in the next financial period. At the same time, it increases government actor responsibility by proposing efficiency criteria for public procurement and a binding target for the refurbishment of government-owned buildings.

However, the energy efficiency challenge is too great to be solved with public funds alone. A whole range of events therefore highlighted the opportunities of new financing models such as revolving funds that can leverage public money to secure large-scale private investments. The Commission will be supporting this development at the local and regional level by increasing technical support through its ELENA facility as well as through the creation of a new joint fund with the EIB that will use as yet unused resources from the recovery package to develop innovative public-private financing for low-carbon solutions.

The communication 'Smart grids: from innovation to deployment', likewise presented during Sustainable Energy Week, sets out measures to boost smart ICT for energy efficiency at European level. Member states will be asked to produce national implementation plans for the roll-out of smart metering systems and smart grids by September 2012. The Commission itself is committed to work on the development of European market standards, common data protection and transparency rules and the safeguarding of a fully competitive retail market.

The Climate Group actively participated in the EU Sustainable Energy Week, using the opportunity to share its own work towards the Clean Revolution. In a panel discussion on 'Mainstreaming Energy Efficiency' organized by The Climate Group member The Government of Scotland, Luc Bas, Director of European Programs, The Climate Group, presented our smart cities work as well as the States and Regions Alliance as two unique examples of collaborative innovation and best practice exchange. 

Luc Bas also participated in a panel at the European Parliament presenting the EU China Clean Energy Center, where he shared The Climate Group’s analysis of the new Chinese Five-Year Plan and its own activities to promote energy technology exchanges between industrialized countries and China.

“Once again, the EU Sustainable Energy Week has shown that the Clean Revolution offers immense opportunities, and many exciting initiatives are already under way”, Luc says, summarizing his impressions. “However, the Commission needs to show strong leadership over the next few months and develop a legislative framework that provides clear guidance to public action and private sector investment. A binding energy savings target would be a crucial signal to set this direction.”

Image courtesy of: EC/CE Ezequiel Scagnetti

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