Page 6 - European Energy Innovation - Winter 2016 publication
P. 6

Winter 2016 European Energy Innovation


Energy savings
and the market economy

By Paloma López Bermejo (pictured), Member of the European Parliament

There is little doubt that one of            renovation alone if the 20% target        buildings, planifying for a significant
            the major obstacles in creating  was achieved. But they also create        reduction in energy demand. Better
            a sovereign, sustainable and     a growing gap between the energy          isolation, improved heating and
            democratic energy system         and climate policy of the EU and its      cooling systems and a shift away from
for Europe lies in the colossal import       ability to create a credible roadmap for  private transport to better integrated
dependency of the continent, which           energy savings -which, as the European    production and residential urban
consumes as much as twice the energy         Parliament has repeatedly emphasized,     systems require a fundamental shift
it produces. While the EU has engaged        should be not lower than 40% in the       in the market-led developments that
in aggressive trade and neighbourhood        2030 horizon.                             have so far dictated developments in
policies to guarantee its future imports,                                              this area -and not unsurprisingly, led to
thus perpetuating geopolitical tensions      While we insist on the necessity of       the boom-and-bust cycles in real estate
and economic dependency for the              binding action in this sense, it is not   and infrastructure development that we
coming decades, energy savings (along        only goals -but instruments, that we      are still suffering from.
with the development of renewables           must focus on. Up to now, the EU has
and traditional resources such as            concentrated in creating “markets” for    Equally, it is clear that we must adjust
European coal) seem an alternative           energy efficiency, hoping that prices     our trade systems to reward energy-
and ultimately more promising avenue         will lead the way towards meaningful      efficient production and short value-
to adjust the energy needs of the            reduction in energy consumption.          chains. Currently, environmental
European economy to its production           In doing so, it has once more led         dumping threatens European plants
capacity and climate commitments.            neoliberal theory trumps reality          in sectors, such as steel or ceramics,
                                             -for indeed, many households are          where the EU is the most efficient
There is, however, legitimate concern        constrained in their ability to change    amongst global producers. This
on the ability of the EU to deliver on its   individual consumption, while industry    situation is unlikely to be solved
promises. The 20% target for primary         often finds it more convenient to         through free ETS permits, since these
energy savings for 2020 is unlikely to       relocate production than to reduce        only shift the burden of adjusment
be met, and whatever progress has            its environmental impact when             from some industrial sectors to others.
been made seems more a result of             energy prices rise. It is by now widely   Border-adjustment mechanisms,
prolonged of economic stagnation and         accepted that markets create (and         rewarding energy-efficient production,
deindustrialization than of meaningful       reward) inequality: it is no different    should be part of any meaningful
public action.                               for environmental market solutions,       reform of anti-dumping measures: we
                                             which, as implemented, have been          certainly hope that the EU considers
The relevant directives (the Energy          doing more to generate energy poverty     these before opening up any further to
Efficiency Directive and the Buildings       and erode our industrial base than to     trade overseas.
Directive) are still far from fully          prepare a meaningful energy transition.
implemented by the Member States                                                       Ultimately, however, achieving durable
and legal loopholes and overall              On the one hand, it is clear that a       energy savings will also require a
uncertainty over the post-2020               reduction in energy consumption           cultural change, from the individual
framework have further inhibited             at household level requires public        to society as a whole. We must not
investment. These delays are not             investment and subsidies to lead the      forget that consumerism is, after all,
without consequences for employment:         way. With an emphasis on energy-poor      the material culture of neoliberalism
conservative estimates put at at least       consumers, public administrations have    -both creating the needs that alienate
2.4 million the number of jobs that          to intervene to design better urban       workers and enforce distinction in an
could have been created in building          infraestructure and renew current         increasingly unequal economic system.

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