Industry leaders of some of Europe’s most important companies and organisations today slammed the European Commission’s absence of courage on buildings efficiency and other energy efficiency improvements on the energy end-use side.  The criticism comes as the European Commission releases its proposal for a framework Directive on Energy Efficiency.

The proposal adopted today by the European Commission clearly falls short of addressing Europe’s daunting climate and energy challenges. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 2010 was the worst year in history in terms of CO2 emissions, moving the world closer to the point of no return on global warming.

Speaking last week at a UN High-Level Global Sustainability Panel in Helsinki, Climate Commissioner Hedegaard said “by 2016 we’ll have 600bn in fossil fuel subsidies. Think what we could do if we invested this in renewables & efficiency”. Strong though they are, the Commissioner’s words were not turned into meaningful actions by the rest of the European Commission. As Europe goes through hard economic times, it is justifiable to question the EU’s obsession with subsidizing the use of foreign fossil fuels and prioritizing the building out of energy supply and transmission when investing in the deep renovation of Europe’s building stock could create 2 million local jobs and increase Europe’s energy security.

“We were shocked by the lack of ambition in the Commission’s proposal” says Rick Wilberforce, President of EuroACE. “Europe is already walking on thin, melting ice, yet the European Commission proposes a Directive that experts already consider as a failure. Even the 3% binding renovation target for public buildings was watered-down, the Commission only opting to renovate buildings to minimum standards instead of deep renovation will lead to a significant untapped savings potential whilst at the same time lead to higher costs for public authorities in the future” he added.

Buildings account for 40% of EU energy demand, and applying existing technologies would already allow saving 83% of total energy demand in buildings. It is already estimated that by 2050, a 3% yearly deep renovation rate of Europe’s building stock, would save 32% of the total primary energy used in Europe. These measures are necessary if the EU is going to have a chance of meeting its 2050 CO2 emissions reduction target.

The Energy Efficiency Directive brought hopes for groundbreaking energy efficiency policy in Europe; however the Commission managed to disappoint the expectations of people and stakeholders, only to satisfy reluctant Member States who although talk up their green credentials lack the ambition to set a clear vision of how our societies will deal with tomorrow’s energy and climate challenge.