EU energy savings plan too weak: green campaigners

BRUSSELS Mon Apr 2, 2012 3:17pm EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The latest proposal from the Danish EU presidency on how to improve the European Union's record on energy efficiency is far too weak to close the gap between savings so far and its goal for 2020, a coalition of campaigners said on Monday.

As part of the EU process of thrashing out a new law, ambassadors are expected to meet on Tuesday to debate the latest text addressing the difference between current savings at 10 percent and the EU's ambition to reach 20 percent by 2020.

A copy of the latest proposal, seen by Reuters, removes firm national targets and dilutes requirements to renovate public buildings, for instance.

The Coalition for Energy Savings, which brings together an array of campaign groups representing businesses and environmentalists, said the latest proposal would only close one third of the gap, which the European Commission has acknowledged stands at roughly 10 percent.

The secretary general of the coalition, Stefan Scheuer, accused EU ministers of "a lack of responsibility in the light of the energy challenges".

"Exploding energy costs, high unemployment and a slow economic recovery call for urgent investment in energy efficiency within Europe rather than spending money on energy imports," he said.

"Member states need to focus less on finding ways to wriggle out of taking action."

A spokesman for the Danish presidency said he had no comment "for now".

The 20 percent energy savings target is one of a set of three 2020 green energy goals and officially is the only one that the EU is not on track to meet.

With a view to closing the gap, the Danish presidency has made getting a deal on the Energy Efficiency Directive a priority for its six months at the helm of the EU, which it completes in June.

It has hailed the law as a means to create green jobs in building renovation as well as a way of cutting consumer spending and dependence on expensive energy imports.

But energy saving has always been easier said than done.

Some of the big utilities have resisted anything that could erode their profits, and member states have shied away from the need for upfront spending and what they see as prescriptive rules.

A meeting of the European Parliament's industry committee at the end of February strongly endorsed an ambitious text, including binding national targets.

Since then, various member states have raised concerns.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis, editing by Jane Baird)

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