BRUSSELS, May 11 (UPI) -- EU leaders expressed hope this week a consensus can soon be reached on an energy efficiency directive seeking to cut consumption 20 percent by 2020.
A "trialogue" -- or top-level meeting between the three branches of the EU -- on the draft efficiency measure was held Tuesday in Brussels, bringing hopeful comments that an agreement can be struck by next month's conclusion of the Danish EU presidency.
While the EU's member nations have committed to the goal of reducing power consumption by 20 percent, it won't have legal clout until that level is agreed upon in the Energy Efficiency Directive by each of the European Commission, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
While the commissioners and the EP are pushing to maintain the 20 percent goal -- which would mean power consumption would have to drop by 150 million tons of oil equivalent -- the majority of the 27 country members of the ministerial council are balking.
Still, EU Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger told the EP's Committee on Industry, Transport, Research and Energy Tuesday he's hopeful the council's president, Denmark, can help forge an acceptable agreement before its term ends July 1.
The Danes, he said, are leading a charge within the council to fight off efforts to lower the amount of the mandated savings.
Meanwhile, Krzysztof Gierulski, an official at the Commission's energy efficiency unit, told attendees at a European Smart Metering Industry Group conference in Brussels Tuesday a deal can be reached by July, Brussels weekly EurActiv reported.
"I believe it is possible to reach this political agreement. There will be work under the Cyprus presidency to make sure that all translation work is done," Gierulski said. "We are moving towards political agreement on the most important issues."
Environmentalists reacted with alarm after they learned the Council of Ministers was initially proposing a much lower reduction of 58.1 mtoe -- only 38 percent of the savings foreseen in the original draft.
The parliamentarians, meanwhile, are pushing for savings of 130 percent.
"Both sides are willing to compromise," an EU source close to the discussions told the publication.
One of the main points of contention is the draft directive's Article 6, which initially mandated energy providers to reduce sales to household users by 1.5 percent each year until 2020.
But in what critics blasted as a "watered down" revision, the Council instead proposed reaching that goal incrementally, starting with a 1 percent savings per year until 2015. That approach would, in effect, decrease the overall savings rate to approximately 1.3 percent, they contend.
"Member states thus far seem intent on creating a directive that efficiently achieves next to no action on energy savings," Erica Hope, senior policy officer with Climate Action Network-Europe, said last month.
"They all say they support efficiency but if you add up their actual positions, the result could be a directive that is even weaker than existing legislation."
Danish Climate Minister Martin Lidegaard said in April Denmark would do what it could to restore the original goals of the directive.
"Some of the articles in the directive -- especially Article 6 -- have been too watered down and, if we should have a chance to reach agreement with the European Parliament, we have to increase the ambition level of that article again," Lidegaard told EurActiv.
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