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EU sets out clean energy and air pollution plans

A suite of updated energy efficiency proposals have been proposed for the EU, while a new air pollution law has been officially adopted, including by the UK despite its intention to leave.

A suite of updated energy efficiency proposals have been proposed for the EU, while a new air pollution law has been officially adopted, including by the UK despite its intention to leave. 

The European Commission published a wide-ranging package of proposals on energy efficiency and related measures on 30 November 2016 as part of a plan to “keep the EU competitive” as the clean energy transition begins to take hold in global markets.

‘Energy efficiency first’

The headline measure in the plan is to increase the EU’s non-binding energy efficiency target of 27 per cent by 2030 (against 2007 projections) to a 30 per cent binding target. 

The move is part of an ‘energy efficiency first’ principle that aims to ensure that reducing energy demand is given priority over increasing energy supply wherever possible.

Amongst the proposed measures are plans to strengthen eco-design and energy labelling rules for appliances sold on the EU market, which is expected to save the equivalent annual energy consumption of Sweden by 2030.

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive will also be improved with a view to completely decarbonising the EU’s building stock by 2050.

Member states may face new requirements to ensure electric vehicles are catered for in new non-residential building developments and non-residential developments undergoing major renovation.

‘Important to UK’

The wide-ranging proposals will now be considered by the European Parliament and European Council before they can enter into law. There has been pressure for even stronger proposals, with support in the European Parliament for a 40 per cent energy efficiency target for 2030. 

Despite the UK being on the brink of exiting the EU, the proposals are still of interest to domestic businesses.

James Court, head of policy at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), commented that the new proposals would “support the UK’s movement towards a more flexible, decentralised, and lower-cost energy system”.

“While the UK is leaving the European Union, policies such as these remain very important as they may be transferred into domestic law as part of the ‘Great Repeal Bill’”, he added.

Air pollution

The UK has already agreed a brand new EU law setting national 2020 and 2030 targets for curbing air pollution, which will enter into force on 31 December 2016. This means that the new directive should be passed into domestic law once the UK leaves, but it is not yet clear how or if the new targets will ultimately be upheld. 

The UK is also one of six EU member states now on the receiving end of legal action from the European Commission for failing to take robust action on car manufacturers in the wake of the ‘dieselgate’ scandal.

VW, which was found to be cheating on car emissions tests in 2015, has reached a $15 billion settlement with authorities in the US, but nothing like this has been pursued in the UK.