By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS – The European Parliament’s lead negotiator has proposed tougher EU targets to reduce energy use this decade, which he said would help cut Europe’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and rein in energy bills.
European Union policymakers are negotiating a huge package of laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions this decade, including targets to reduce energy use by renovating buildings to guzzle less fossil fuels.
Reducing energy use – known as “energy efficiency” – is key to meeting the EU’s climate change targets. Its political clout has risen amid soaring gas prices and concerns about energy supply disruptions after Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier, invaded Ukraine.
“We basically need to do what we can to decrease the dependency of imports of fossil fuels,” said Danish lawmaker Niels Fuglsang, who is drafting the European Parliament’s position on the law.
The proposal faces months of negotiating between Parliament and EU countries. A majority from both must approve it.
The European Commission, which drafts EU policies, proposed that the EU reduce final energy consumption 23% by 2030 compared to projected levels.
Fuglsang’s proposal raises that to 43% and adds binding targets for individual countries. It hikes to 2% – compared with 1.5% in the Commission’s proposal – a target for countries to reduce energy consumption each year from 2024.
“Energy efficiency is the response to several of the crises that we face. The climate crisis… but also energy poverty,” he said.
In the long run, insulating buildings or making industrial processes less energy-intensive can save money, but such investments have high upfront costs. The EU has urged countries to finance them using its 800-billion-euro COVID-19 recovery fund.
Fuglsang said governments should also launch dedicated energy efficiency funds, targeting poorer households.
As energy prices have soared, most EU governments are using emergency tax breaks to cut citizen’s bills, but so far, few have responded with energy efficiency schemes.
The Commission will next week propose measures to support such investments and speed up renewable energy projects.