EU member states are not on board with the solution to the energy crisis

By Alberto Vela
Alberto Vela is Communications Officer for Energy and Climate Policy at the European Environmental Bureau, Europe’s largest network of environmental citizens’ initiatives.

Rising energy prices have become one of the European citizens’ most urgent concerns. In another week of record-breaking energy prices, the 27 EU energy ministers meet today in Brussels to discuss measures and policies that will be crucial to push our energy system towards a cleaner and more resilient model

Over 50 million Europeans currently live in energy poverty, having to choose between heating their homes and having food on the table, a number that is set to skyrocket this winter if member states do not choose the right policy toolbox.

Getting to the root of the energy price issue, there is no doubt that the EU’s heavy fossil-based energy mix, and its dependency on fossil fuel imports in a global market led by speculation and volatility, are the main cause of our soaring energy bills. Moreover, the cost of the kilowatt-hour in the EU energy market is set by the highest-priced energy source, which nowadays is fossil gas and coal.

Despite this well-known economic and regulatory context, some EU leaders are also trying to instrumentalize this situation to blame the European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 Package – which is so far not even agreed upon and will not be enforced for at least another two years – in order to claim EU funding for non-clean energy such as gas and nuclear. 

Energy efficient buildings

Paradoxically, the European Green Deal has proven to be the best tool to implement the most effective solution we have against energy poverty: energy efficiency. More than seven out of ten European buildings are energy inefficient, which has been identified as the root cause of energy poverty and overconsumption. The poor energy performance of European housing stock makes the building sector the single largest energy consumer in the EU and one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters, accounting for one-third of total EU emissions.

Member States have never been in a better position to tackle this energy issue since the European Green Deal provides the necessary regulation, financing, and technical assistance to deliver deep renovation programs that prioritize energy-poor households and their gender dimension. If they pursue the Renovation Wave’s objective of the deep renovating of 35 million homes by 2030, their domestic heating demand will reduce by 60%. 

Renovations, if climate-friendly and carried out without installing gas boilers from 2025, can play a crucial role against energy poverty and in achieving the Paris climate targets. But once again, EU governments are turning a deaf ear to these energy measures.

Binding targets are lacking

The Commission’s proposal on the revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) strengthens the current EU energy policy by increasing the targets for 2030. However, these targets are still below the level of energy savings and renewables achievable and required to enable the transition to the fully decarbonized energy system needed for climate neutrality. To be aligned with the 1.5C trajectory, by 2030 the EU needs to set a renewable energy target of at least 50% in gross final energy consumption, and a target of 45% for energy efficiency. 

On the renewables side, the proposed binding targets for heating and cooling and decarbonization plans at the national level are very welcome. However, in district heating, where a switch from fossil to renewable energy is urgently needed, a 2.1% annual renewables increase is not enough to be in line with full decarbonization by 2040.

In addition, member states are resisting binding targets for renewable expansion and energy efficiency at the national level. This means that the full potential of these key instruments is not being exploited.

We should remember that the cleanest energy is that which is not consumed. Rapid mobilization of energy-saving potential through accelerated renovation, modernization of industrial production processes, and a rapid increase in the use of renewables in households could lead Europe to climate neutrality by 2040.

This position was taken from an article originally published on the EEB META news channel.

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