An exploration of possible design options for a binding energy savings target in Europe
As Europe is not on track in meeting its 2020 energy savings target, there has been quite some debate to make the energy savings target binding instead of indicative. Although the final draft text of the Energy Efficiency Directive left the option of a binding target explicitly open for the period beyond 2014, this statement has watered down in the adopted Directive: If still not on track mid-2014, the European Commission will propose "further measures". In this paper, we argue that a binding energy savings target could be the first EU legal initiative to look beyond 2020 serving as a beacon for other policies such as for renewables and greenhouse gases that need redefinition after 2020. We therefore explore four possible design options of a binding savings target and assess their feasibility. We conclude that a binding target at Member State level (opposed to an EU-wide target like for the EU Emission Trading System (ETS)) is the most feasible. A binding target at Member State level would ensure political accountability and commitment to deliver results while providing flexibility to choose and apply the most suitable tools to achieve the target. It could provide a framework to guide ambitious and coherent implementation of EU energy efficiency policies, as well as the strengthening of national policies. Furthermore, binding targets at Member State level will make Member States take an ambitious position in Brussels when new energy or CO2 performance standards for appliances and transport modes are to be set. A Member State binding target applied to end-users (excluding ETS companies) is a design option that covers the vast majority of the cost-effective energy savings potential, maintains the flexibility for ETS companies, and supports the most cost-effective achievement of a greater share of renewables.