To stay within tolerable temperature limits, worldwide emissions must stop rising before 2020, must be cut by at least half of their 1990 levels by 2050, and must continue to fall thereafter. The EU is serious about ensuring that an ambitious and legally binding global treaty is agreed at the UN climate change conference in Mexico City in 2010, and has now taken further steps to improve and harmonize European legislation concerning energy issues.
The EU’s energy-targets for 2020 include a target of reducing energy consumption by 20% through increased energy efficiency, and European Parliament has just approved new legislation concerning efficient building and the energy efficiency labeling system.
When it is considered that within the EU buildings account for about 40% of energy consumption, as well as the fact that efficiency is the cheapest way to reduce CO2 emissions, it has to be welcomed that all buildings put up from the end of 2020 must have high energy-saving standards throughout all member states. National building codes will have to be adapted and existing buildings will have to be reconstructed and improved wherever possible, because the directive concerns both new and existing buildings. Coordination by the EU will ensure that the burden is fairly spread and binding targets will take account of national capacities.
Home-owners are to be encouraged through attractive financial incentives to replace heating, hot-water plumbing and air-con systems with high-efficiency technologies such as heat pumps. With a view to intelligent grids, the installment of smart meters is also to be promoted. Especially boilers and cooling systems with high energy consumption will have to be regularly inspected.
Easy-to-understand labeling is also thought to help consumers assess the running costs when buying new household appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing machines. The energy-performance certificate for buildings is already well established. The existing energy label is to be improved, but it will stick with its established coloring scheme. EU Parliament approved the new layout which will offer more information on the energy consumption of appliances. Which specific products will have to be labeled is currently being determined by a Commission working group. Energy-consuming products for commercial and industrial use will also have energy labels in the future. Furthermore, energy-related products such as window glazing and building materials are also obliged to display the label under the new directive.
Another important point is that any advert mentioning the energy consumption or price of a specific model of household appliance will have to show the product’s energy class, and this will also apply for any other technical promotional literature.
Financing instruments play a key role in Europe’s successful transformation into an energy-efficient and low carbon economy, therefore the Commission will continue to encourage Member States to use the available funds under the European Regional Development Fund. Available funds shall act as leverage for stimulating investments in energy efficiency, and the EU climate change and energy strategy is in line with the EU’s drive for economic growth and job creation.
Rising to challenges and seizing opportunities must be the motto! Investment into Europe’s role at the forefront of the energy transition will create new business and research opportunities as well as make Europe less vulnerable to erratic energy prices and uncertain supply chains of traditional energy carriers.