March 2. 2024. 2:25

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Tug of war over ambition threatens EU energy efficiency law

A battle of wills over ambition in a new law to improve energy efficiency in Europe risks delaying an agreement on the bill ahead of another round of negotiations on Thursday (9 March).

Negotiators from the European Commission, EU countries and the European Parliament are due to meet at 2pm on Thursday for an open-ended discussion on the law, known as trilogue.

But while some are hoping negotiators will find a compromise, a lack of progress on the headline energy savings target could see the meeting finish without a deal.

“That trilogue is doomed to fail,” one EU diplomat told EURACTIV following a meeting of EU country ambassadors (COREPER) on Wednesday (7 March) and a tug of war between countries over ambition.

The European Commission originally proposed setting the 2030 energy savings target at 9%. However, following the war in Ukraine and energy crisis, it upped this to 13%.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament agreed to push for a 14.5% energy savings target.

EU countries are split on the level of ambition. Following the COREPER meeting, an EU diplomat told EURACTIV that 10 countries want to stick to the 9% target. These are Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Ireland, Finland, Spain, Luxemburg, Hungary and Malta.

Another 10 are flexible on the target, the source added, saying these are France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechia, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Those who are for the 13% are Germany, Denmark, Austria, Estonia, Croatia and Cyprus, the source said.

Another EU diplomat confirmed that Poland is against raising the target and that Austria, Denmark, Germany and Estonia are in favour of more ambition.

Parliament set for clash with EU countries over new energy savings target

The European Parliament on Wednesday (14 September) backed a mandatory target to reduce the EU’s energy consumption down 14.5% by 2030, setting the EU assembly on track for tense negotiations with reluctant EU countries.

‘Too few are ready to move’

The final phases of the negotiations are exposing how most EU countries support energy savings in theory, but not in practice, said Arianna Vitale from The Coalition for Energy Savings.

“Too few are ready to move towards the 13% REPowerEU ambition,” she told EURACTIV.

“To ensure the benefits of energy efficiency materialise for citizens and businesses, ambition and enforceability must go hand in hand,” she added.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament is sticking to its guns.

“We are ready to make a deal with council. But it requires that they move seriously upwards when it comes to the ambition level of the targets for energy efficiency to the benefit of the climate, the citizens and our common security,” Niels Fuglsang, the lead parliamentary negotiator, told EURACITV.

The negotiations on the law have progressed slowly, with hopes of a deal by the end of 2022 dashed in December.

Back then, a parliamentary source told EURACTIV that negotiators were more than halfway there, having found agreement on a “substantial amount of articles”, but added that it was boiling down to the main political issues.

EU negotiators will meet tomorrow to discuss the law and possibly come to a deal. According to an EU diplomat, there might also be some bilateral talks with EU countries still sceptical about raising the overall target to try and get an agreement.

EU aims to agree new energy efficiency law in 2023

Legislators aim to sign off on a new law to boost energy efficiency next year, despite slow progress in talks between the European Parliament and the 27 EU countries.