President. The next item is the report by Mr Vidal-Quadras on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on energy efficiency (Green Paper) [2005/2210(INI)] (A6-0160/2006).
Alejo Vidal-Quadras (PPE-DE), rapporteur. – (ES) Mr President, tomorrow this House will vote on the report on energy efficiency for which I have been rapporteur. This report comes at an extremely appropriate time. Following last January’s energy crisis, the constant rise in the price of a barrel of crude, amongst other factors, has reopened an in-depth debate on the lack of a common energy policy within the Union, the vulnerability of our supply system, the worrying increase in protectionist attitudes and the need to substantially improve our habits, as well as the efficiency of our consumption.
We have had to face extreme situations in order for the citizens and the governments to become aware once again of the seriousness of the situation we are in. Let us hope that the measures required to resolve these problems are taken once and for all.
I believe that the great majority of Members of this Parliament agree with me that, in terms of reducing our dependence on external sources and combating climate change, energy efficiency is the quickest and least expensive approach and has the greatest potential for creating employment and economic growth.
Furthermore, promoting energy efficiency fits perfectly well within the Lisbon Agenda, which is so in need of revitalisation.
This report is also intended to remind the Member States that, if the different directives in force are complied with, the Union could achieve 50% of its energy saving objectives, as well as the majority of its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, without the need to take any new measures.
I believe that it is important to emphasise this message because the great majority of the agreements amongst the Member States from the last Spring Council relate to compliance with existing obligations. We are often accused of producing endless legislative texts that are difficult to transpose, but that view is usually a poor excuse from national governments that have not been diligent in their compliance with the Community legislation.
The report that we will approve tomorrow also includes recommendations that are worth highlighting here: the need for massive investment in improvements to infrastructures – given that we suffer an average 12% loss in transmission networks, with losses of up to 20% in certain Member States; the completion of the internal energy market; greater investment in research, development and innovation in the field of more efficient technologies; the introduction of stricter requirements for domestic appliances and tighter controls of products available on the European market that do not conform to minimum standards; efficiency criteria in relations with developing countries; and strengthened dialogue with the main energy-producing countries.
Last but not least, several parts of the document stress the importance of the public sector, including the European institutions, setting a positive example in the incorporation of energy efficiency measures, through the design of public buildings, the renewal of vehicle fleets and the inclusion of energy efficiency criteria for public contracts.
I believe that this document makes many useful suggestions for the Commission in drawing up the action plan. We are counting on Commissioner Piebalgs, who always listens so carefully to Parliament’s views, to incorporate them into his final version.
I would like to end, Mr President, by thanking the shadow rapporteurs for their excellent cooperation during the drawing up of this report, which I hope will receive as large a majority tomorrow as it did in the vote in committee. This is the ideal time to take some courageous steps in the right direction, since we have on our side both the good will of the Member States and the will and interest of the citizens. We must not miss this great opportunity.
Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to congratulate Mr Vidal-Quadras on his excellent report. This report demonstrates why high energy efficiency needs to be on the agenda of the European Union.
Constantly increasing energy efficiency levels is the most important viable long-term policy in order to achieve a sustainable, competitive and secure energy policy for Europe.
I am pleased to say that the Commission is already in line with most of the calls from Parliament. Indeed, we will integrate your considerations into our forthcoming Action Plan on Energy Efficiency, together with the results of the public hearing. I expect the action plan to be adopted just after the summer break. In addition, these considerations will be part of the Commission’s work in the broader context.
I note the call on the Commission to be consistent with existing legislation. I agree. The action plan will build on existing legislation, and will focus on practical measures. I also agree with your request for regular updates on the state of implementation of the directives dealing with energy efficiency. Proper implementation and enforcement will determine the success of any EU policy. This will, therefore, be the first priority in our action plan.
You rightly point out that in these times of high energy prices, the 9% consumption reduction target over nine years in the directive on end-use efficiency and energy services may well be on the low side. On this issue, I would like to mention the following: the Commission is launching a comprehensive study on the energy efficiency potential in the different Member States. This study will give a clear overview of national potentials and the Commission will compare this with the ambition levels in the Member States. In this way, we hope to increase the ambition levels of the Member States.
In relation to financial issues, we work with international financing institutions to integrate energy efficiency into their lending strategy. The refurbishment of existing buildings, with an emphasis on social housing, is already part of the European Regional Development Fund in the new programming period. However, it is up to the Member States to ensure that they use this possibility.
I agree that fiscal measures can be a very effective instrument to further energy efficiency. Regarding financial incentives to speed up market transformation, the Commission is considering a number of options in the impact assessment report on the action plan.
I agree that public authorities should lead by example, in particular through their public procurement policy. They can make a substantial difference towards market transformation. We will closely follow how Member States integrate energy efficiency requirements into public procurement guidelines, as they are required to do under the Energy Services Directives.
In this respect, I also agree with your call for more public information and education, and this will make up the third part of our action plan – behavioural changes.
I will comment briefly on minimum efficiency standards for energy-using products, as well as labelling. The dynamic setting of minimum efficiency standards is embedded in the Eco-design Directive. At the same time, we need to ensure predictability for investment planning by the industry. As regards labelling, this will also be looked at in the action plan in connection with awareness-raising.
I am encouraged by your call on the Commission and the Member States to deploy more initiatives to increase energy efficiency in transport. All options should be seriously considered. The Commission will soon be coming forward with a mid-term review of the transport policy, and transport will also be one of the areas for action in the Energy Efficiency Action Plan.
On external relations, I agree that energy efficiency should be – in fact, it already is – a part of our relations with both energy suppliers and with the consuming regions. Dialogues on this issue are being held with Russia, OPEC, the United States, China, Japan and India. However, there is room for more action, both to make full use of the competitive advantage that we already have through existing technologies, but also because it is important in fighting climate change and ensuring security of supply.
I think there is complete agreement between your report and our work, and I would ask you to continue your strong support for our work in the energy efficiency field.
I should like to thank the rapporteur and the shadow rapporteurs once again for this excellent report.
Elisa Ferreira (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. – (PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, energy savings help reduce Europe’s dependence on an essential resource, contribute towards sustainable development and, by preventing waste, increase competitiveness.
These are hugely important, topical objectives, as the rapporteur and the Commissioner both pointed out. Given that there appears to be convergence on objectives, the biggest problem that we face is how to convert those objectives into practice and how to change wasteful practices and habits. The text that we are about to adopt is an important step in this direction.
As draftsman, I wish to thank the rapporteur for the quality of his work and for his cooperation in accepting a large number of amendments, three of which I should like to highlight: Firstly, the liberalisation of the energy markets must be matched by the quality of the regulation. Secondly, the harmonisation of standards must be carried out at international level. Thirdly, fiscal differences are specified that will lead to more efficient practices. Lastly, I feel that to ensure consistency of policy, there should be a way of guaranteeing that the Structural and Cohesion Funds lead to recovery and energy saving, especially in cities, which should go hand in hand with the recovery and streamlining of transport systems.
I wish to bring these four suggestions to the fore.
Péter Olajos (PPE-DE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety. – (HU) Mr President, as a result of the Brussels Summit in March this year, the European Union now has its own energy policy. The adoption of the joint strategy is a milestone, because we can only control our overwhelming energy problems with joint efforts.
However, rather than ensuring a larger and even more wasteful usage, the focal point of the new strategy should be a more economical, more efficient and more intensive energy utilisation. This is the foundation of our competitiveness, and it is also supported by ecological considerations and even by the interest of consumers. Therefore, I am also pleased that following my proposal, the document tabled before us also includes, among other things, assistance for the modernisation of energy utilisation in prefabricated housing, which is a significant problem throughout Europe, including Hungary.
I believe that the encouragement given to companies providing services related to energy efficiency is a very significant step, because this is a market-conforming and innovative solution.
I congratulate the rapporteur for the excellent work. I also thank the rapporteur for having supported almost all the proposals I had made as the competent draftsman of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.
Marta Vincenzi (PSE), draftsman of the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism. – (IT) Mr President, in one minute I should just like to emphasise two points. We have tried to state that we must be more determined in regarding transport efficiency as the nucleus of a strategy to integrate our policies on competitiveness, sustainability and energy security. I therefore hope, Commissioner, that you will actually do what you have said, and we shall watch that you do so.
Secondly, we have to acknowledge that the average efficiency of road transport conversion chains is surprisingly low, and a step change is needed. This represents an enormous potential saving if we take it as the main criterion for defining product quality and as a prerequisite for introducing hydrogen converters in the future.
Of course, research and development are our hope, but we have to start straight away by doing what is possible, based on proven technologies that already exist and on the possibilities for systems-wide integration.
Giles Chichester, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, I would like to thank my colleague the rapporteur Mr Vidal-Quadras for all his hard work in producing this report. However, I would also like to commiserate with him because some of our colleagues have displayed a lack of efficiency in their rather profligate use of words in pursuit of the worthy aims of this report. In having too many words, there is a risk of losing focus on what we wish to achieve.
However, I would like to congratulate Mr Vidal-Quadras very much on the splendid set of amendments which he has produced with the other shadow rapporteurs in compromise. It is wonderful to see so much text being cut out of a report, and I support him strongly.
We need realism in pursuit of our aims for efficiency. Efficiency is essential; the issue is how we achieve it and how soon we can achieve it.
Mechtild Rothe, on behalf of the PSE Group. – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, my thanks first of all to the rapporteur, Mr Vidal-Quadras, both for the report itself and for our close cooperation. From this very comprehensive committee report I would like to pick up only a few points of particular importance to my group.
Firstly, the recognition that the prescribed target of a 20% improvement in energy efficiency by 2020 must be amended upwards. The Commission’s target is based on an oil price of 25-30 dollars per barrel. I need hardly stress that this assumption is far removed from any current and future reality. This means that we can expect energy-efficiency measures to be far more cost-effective.
In this context, the report also establishes how cost-efficiency is to be assessed. Its assessment should take into account such factors as rising energy prices, reduced dependence on energy imports, the protection of the climate and of the environment, the security of energy supplies, innovation and the effects of energy saving in the medium and long term.
Alongside ambitious targets we need ambitious energy-efficiency action plans. I am referring not only to the Commission’s European action plan but also to national action plans. We really must make these action plans the heart of a much-needed energy-efficiency offensive, meaning that we need good, intensive PR, practicable and effective proposals and differentiated energy-efficiency scenarios.
Fiona Hall, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, this is a report brimming with recommendations, but I want to make just one point. We must not be under-ambitious on energy efficiency. We are dealing with an evolving set of circumstances, and the technology is developing so fast that last years’ top energy-efficient appliance becomes next year’s rather mediocre model. But even more significantly, the economic calculation is changing almost daily. As Mrs Rothe said, when the Commission published its Green Paper it based its target of 20% energy saving by 2020 on an oil price of USD 30 a barrel, but by the time the report passed through the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), oil prices stood at USD 70 a barrel.
It will not be very long before Member States bring forward their national energy efficiency action plans. As you said Commissioner, 1% a year now seems far too low a target to be aiming for. I welcome very much the comments you made to that effect.
I hope that the Commission will take a strong line and ensure that those national action plans are ambitious both in scope and in implementation, given what is now realistically and viably achievable.
Claude Turmes, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, that is enough talk: let us act. Let us have mandatory targets above 20% and strengthen legislation, above all as regards transport, but also electricity. Let us take the opportunity to relaunch combined heat and power – that should be our answer to energy security. However, all this can only happen if there is institutional capacity-building. As long as there are more people in the Commission working for Euratom and on nuclear power then on energy efficiency, then there will be more talk than action.
Commissioner, we will judge you on this. You promised us more staff to work on energy efficiency. You have not delivered on your promises and will not be able to do so without more staff. We need these staff because we need Commission officials to go outside Brussels and build a new partnership. Energy efficiency is about a new culture, and we must therefore get national, regional and local governments on board, as well as industry, NGOs and the citizens. How can you achieve this with just a handful of officials in the Commission?
Esko Seppänen, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, our group obviously takes a positive view of improved energy efficiency. On the Committee we voted in favour of the numerous amendments made to Mr Vidal-Quadras’s report. The end result is acceptable to us, working on the principle that the forest is more important than the trees.
The Union lacks a transport energy efficiency policy. I welcomed the Commissioner’s promise to produce a document on energy efficiency in transport in the near future.
Possible areas where savings can be made mostly relate to different buildings and their heating and air-conditioning needs. Improved energy efficiency in buildings will call for new investment and new technology, but there are no alternatives to it.
When Finland was part of Russia, the tsarist authorities taught the Finns discipline by sending our fellow countrymen to Siberia. This worked on the principle that Siberia teaches you a lesson. From the point of view of energy efficiency, rising energy prices are the EU’s Siberia. Expensive energy teaches you a lesson. What does it teach you? It teaches you to save energy. In this report we aspire to big savings, and the message to the Commission is a long one, but it is crystal clear.
Adam Gierek (PSE). – (PL) Mr President, the matter under discussion relates to the efficient use of energy which, once obtained from primary sources, may be converted into useful work or into another form of energy, or used inefficiently in open-ended systems. Examples of these include the large industrial steam power plants, whose end efficiency is at best 30-40%, less 10% for power transmission costs.
How, then, can energy be more efficiently used to save these 20-30%? In the first place, we need to invest in upgrading heat insulation in buildings and in modernising the way heat is produced and supplied to them, as well as in waste heat recovery systems. Secondly, we need to invest in the decommissioning of old, small-scale, outmoded local heating plants and to connect housing estates, particularly in the new Member States where such estates exist in large cities, to heating networks powered by modern, co-generating heat-and-power stations of optimum capacity. This will enable the simultaneous generation of electricity for local consumers without transmission losses. In order for these technologies to bear rapid fruit, however, financial priority will need to be accorded to access to EU funding for these projects, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.
Vladimír Remek (GUE/NGL). – (CS) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, at this late hour, I shall begin with a story about a driver who asks the price of a drop of petrol at a petrol station. On hearing that a drop of petrol costs nothing, he asks for a full tank. It is indeed the case that one can save a great deal drop by drop, perhaps even in financial terms. We certainly have before us an array of measures and proposals that could help bring about greater energy efficiency. My analogy was an attempt to illustrate that the potential solutions are all relative and clearly not simple. In my opinion, the most important is to boost science and research. I therefore believe that unless we back up our good intentions and rhetoric with adequate financial resources for research and development – and at the moment this is clearly not the case – our goal of raising energy efficiency may be no more than wishful thinking. A case in point is the Galileo project. Unless we provide this project with adequate funding, we will not achieve higher energy efficiency in future in an area such as transport, which is unquestionably one of the highest consumers of energy.
Joan Calabuig Rull (PSE). – (ES) Mr President, Commissioner, I would like to begin by congratulating Mr Vidal-Quadras on the broad consensus achieved and the skill he has shown during the process of drawing up this report.
We all agree that Europe is faced with the effects of climate change, the rising crude prices and the tension with Russia over the supply of gas. Nevertheless, Europe’s political response to our energy vulnerability is perhaps not yet up to the challenges we are facing.
Over recent years we have been prioritising the creation of the European energy market. Nevertheless, reality shows that it is essential to move towards a common energy policy and that it is essential that the Member States are committed to moving decisively towards that objective.
Furthermore, greater financial commitment to research and development in the field of energy is essential, specifically with a view to increasing efficiency, particularly in buildings and transport. In any event, one of the crucial approaches is to improve energy efficiency, which could lead to the saving of an enormous amount of energy in Europe. Furthermore, the citizens can play an important role in this in their daily lives, but we will need a global approach, because this objective will affect all of the European policies as a whole.
Andris Piebalgs, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteur again for an excellent report.
We touched upon the very important issue of the Commission’s role and whether the Commission is delivering. I do not believe that it is the role of the Commission to have millions of inspectors checking that everyone has switched off their lights! The role of the Commission is to give the political imperative, to provide the instruments for Member States and to raise public awareness, and we are delivering on that. We are coping excellently in this respect, because energy efficiency is definitely the first priority in the whole energy society in the European Union and each year we are improving, but we should like to improve even more. The perception that was mentioned is wrong, because the Commission is delivering strongly on this.
Let me turn to the issue of staff and the relocation of staff. The Commission must fulfil Treaty obligations. The Commission is the guardian of the Treaties. The Treaties should be fulfilled and to do this the Commission must have enough staff for all areas. Therefore, it is not possible to move civil servants from one area to another as if by some miracle.
As far as energy efficiency is concerned, there have been changes to the structure of DG-TREN. We have a unit for energy efficiency and another for renewable energies. The number of staff has been increased and will be increased in accordance with the provisions in the annual budget. That is part of the budget-making procedure. I cannot accept this argument. The Commission is doing what it can and is delivering on it.
The report is excellent and will provide us with better opportunities to use the potential of the European Union. Perhaps we could be more ambitious than 20%, but we must now concentrate on seeing that is fulfilled.
President. The debate is closed.
The vote will take place on Thursday at 11.30 a.m.
Written Statements (Rule 142)
John Attard-Montalto (PSE). – Energy savings imply a reduction of energy; energy efficiency means doing more with less.
After the world was awakened by the enormous rise in the cost of oil which ultimately translated into rises in our petrol and diesel costs and unbearable surcharges in our electricity bills – as happened in my own country Malta – we have all started to focus on the energy savings – alternative energies such as wind farms at sea, as is being proposed in Malta – and energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency can be addressed to numerous aspects of our everyday life. For instance: buildings – the potential in efficiency in the building sector is of utmost importance; appliances – electric appliances such as ovens, air conditioners, kettles, toasters, etc. are becoming more efficient; transport – research and development have made cars more efficient in energy consumption. But unfortunately, the more energy-efficient cars are, the more expensive they usually become.
Consequently, the main problem lies in the implementation of this report if adopted. How are you going to encourage consumers to make capital investments, to change or purchase more energy-efficient building materials, cars or appliances? The only way is motivation of a fiscal nature such as tax credits, reduced VAT, reduced licence payments, etc.
Francesco Musotto (PPE-DE). – (IT) The recent crisis in the distribution of Russian natural gas supplies has revealed just how dependent Europe is on imported energy sources, and the problem is expected to become appreciably worse in the coming years. Containing the European Union’s energy demand could prove to be an important factor in solving the problem. Such a step could lead to greater economic efficiency, generate a trend towards more jobs and help make European industry more competitive, all of which are in line with the aims of the Lisbon Strategy.
In addition to setting new targets, we must look at the legislation that already exists: if the Member States had adopted it in full, we would by now already be halfway towards the Union’s target of a 20% energy saving by 2010.
The report proposes that the energy efficiency goals be incorporated into other sectoral policies, such as tax, transport or cohesion policy. I believe that the funds intended for the European Union’s regional policy should also be used to finance interregional and cross-border projects, to allow for the transfer of expertise to Member States and regions that do not have enough of a technological background to implement greater energy efficiency.