July 16, 2014 / 8:10 AM / 4 years ago

EU considers energy savings goal below 30 percent

* EU almost on track to meet current 20 percent goal

* Higher efficiency cuts dependence on Russian gas

* Efficiency would dent oil, gas prices

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, July 16 (Reuters) - The European Commission is considering an energy saving goal for 2030 of less than 30 percent, according to a document seen by Reuters, setting it at odds with designated Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

How ambitious an energy efficiency goal the European Union should set has taken on increased urgency in the context of the Ukraine crisis because using less energy would curb the EU’s reliance on Russian gas.

Juncker said at the European Parliament on Tuesday: “A binding 30 percent energy efficiency target is for me the minimum.” The new goal would also mark a retreat from a previous draft, setting out a target of 30 percent or more.

But because energy savings measures - such as better insulation for buildings - cost money, they have divided the European Union and the EU’s executive Commission, hence the wrangling over percentage points.

The draft document seen by Reuters says the aim is to maintain existing momentum and to achieve that, the Commission will propose “an ambitious energy efficiency target of 2X percent”.

It does not give a precise number, but EU sources said the 2X implied a figure in the 20s and that the Commission had asked for extra modelling to show the impact of 27 percent and 29 percent goals on the economies of the 28 EU member states.

The new document is a shift from the previous draft, which said the EU was almost on track to reach its goal of improving energy savings by a fifth by 2020 and may consider a significantly higher target for the next decade.

Juncker is expected to take over as Commission president later this year, meaning he would be in office for legislative debate on the energy savings goal, which is part of a wider 2030 energy and climate package.


The Commission has already asked for modelling of the impact of a set of goals ranging from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Forty percent is demanded by many environment campaigners - who say anything in the 20s is not ambitious - and also by the previous European Parliament prior to elections in May.

The new draft quotes official research that finds using less energy will lower prices, as well as curbing reliance on Russia.

Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine because of a pricing dispute, which could have knock-on effects for EU supplies if the crisis continues as Ukraine is a transit nation for about half of the gas the EU receives from Russia.

For every additional 1 percent in energy savings, gas prices will be about 0.4 percent lower and oil prices about 0.1 percent lower by 2030, the document says.

But bigger energy savings goals have a price. The Commission says 25 percent energy savings would cost an extra 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) per year.

The level of 40 percent savings by 2030, it said, would add costs of roughly 112 billion euros per year.

Environment campaigners say it is not giving enough emphasis to the benefits.

“If you factor in GDP, employment, energy security, there’s no hesitation at all - the EU must go for higher ambition,” said Brook Riley, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth.

The Commission is expected to publish its views on energy efficiency later this month. It does not comment on unpublished documents, which are subject to change. ($1 = 0.7372 Euros) (Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Dale Hudson)

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