* Formal sign-off later this year
* Member states to transpose into national law
* Campaigners urge consumer vigilance
By Barbara Lewis
NICOSIA, July 9 It took months of political
argument to secure a compromise EU deal on energy saving in June
and months more campaigning are likely to follow as campaigners
work to ensure consumers reap the benefits and energy suppliers
change their ways.
The aims included curbing dependence on costly imports of
oil and gas and creating jobs through energy efficiency
measures, such as building renovation.
Its supporters say it marks a shift in the status quo,
tipping the balance from suppliers, including companies and
producer nations, to energy-consuming nations and households.
But endless haggling diluted the legislation's force.
"It's very difficult to say how much this directive is going
to change our behaviour," Nicola Rega, adviser at industry body
"The directive is full of phrases like 'where possible' or
'where feasible', which make it very difficult to make an
upfront assessment. It will ultimately depend on how member
states will, in practice, implement the directive."
On Thursday, the European Parliament's industry committee is
set to sign off on the law and the full parliament should follow
after EU institutions reconvene following the August break.
Once everyone has applied their rubber stamp, the directive
will be published in the EU's Official Journal and member states
will have to transpose it into national law.
As they shied away from steps associated with upfront
spending, even for the sake of longer term gains, many EU
nations pressed for opt-outs.
They greatly shortened a list of public buildings eligible
for renovation and weakened a central article to make suppliers
deliver savings of 1.5 percent of energy sales every year.
Campaigners say the reality is suppliers will have to show
they have cut energy use by around 1 percent, rather than 1.5
percent, and there are ways to avoid the planned savings
Brook Riley, climate and energy campaigner for Friends of
the Earth, predicted companies and consumers would still notice
"They (member states) can use any other alternative measure
as long as they can demonstrate it adds up. But in practice many
will struggle to come up with viable alternatives," he said.
Over time, lower energy use should lower costs and that
should be passed on to consumers.
"Energy regulators such as (British regulator) Ofgem will
need to stand up for them," Riley said. "Consumer groups will
need to mobilise and kick up a fuss."
For its champions, one strength of the Energy Efficiency
Directive is its comprehensiveness. Before it, the bloc had
little more than an aspiration to cut energy use by 20 percent
in 2020 compared with projected levels.
"We had a political declaration," Claude Turmes, the Green
politician who led the parliamentary debate on the directive,
said. "Now what we have is very, very comprehensive."
"For the vast majority of electricity and gas companies and
maybe oil companies in Europe, there will be a change in the
business model away from just selling stuff towards getting
active in the energy-saving market."
The efficiency goal was the only non-binding of three 2020
goals and officially the only one the EU is not expected to
meet. The other two are to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent
and to increase renewables in the energy mix to 20 percent.
Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament Fiona
Hall, like Turmes, was involved in the negotiations both for the
three 2020 targets set in 2007 and for the new directive.
"There were complacencies about it. There was a view that
member states would do the efficiency anyway because it would
make the other targets much easier," she said.
"This experience of what has happened with the difference
between non-binding and binding requirements is that targets are
Business as usual was expected to lead to savings of around
10 percent. Now the bloc should manage around 15 percent,
analysts say, plus a further 2 percent from the transport sector
provided EU plans to cut vehicle emissions are enforced.
Apart from the increase of a few percentage points, the
lengthy debate produced a dense, detailed text, ranging from
road maps on better buildings to smart meter requirements.
Consumer groups are worried about the roll-out of smart
meters, which are meant to empower customers by giving them
detail on their energy use.
"It will increasingly depend on national governments to make
sure that costs are fairly shared between business and consumers
and that households who will not benefit from a smart meter will
not be obliged to get one," Monika Stajnarova, economic officer
for the European Consumers' Organisation, said.
The Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA),
meanwhile, plans its own report on efficiency later this year.
"It's a very welcome step. It needs to be complemented by
other policy," Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International
Energy Agency said of the new EU law. "I would like to see more
on a mandatory basis."
(Editing by Jason Neely)