A new document has been approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) of the EU to reduce energy consumption and dependence on imported fossil fuels that cost the EU € 573 billion ( $720 billion) last year.
It outlines measures to achieve a 17% cut in energy consumption by 2020, a target that falls short of the 20 % goal initially proposed and has lead to accusations that the directive lacks sufficient ambition.
This decision contradicts a previous vote by the European Parliament against the radical reduction of national subsidies to fossil fuels proposed by the European Commission.
As it stands, member states face a legal obligation to establish energy efficiency schemes for households, industries, and transport or bring in policies to drive efficiency improvements. The directive also compels large companies to undergo energy audits, while small businesses and households will be encouraged to do the same.
Governments will also have to improve efficiency in energy generation, transmission, and distribution, and ensure 3% of the floor area of public sector controlled buildings is renovated to meet minimum energy performance standards, although buildings that have particular architechtural merit, are owned by armed forces, or used for worship, can be exempted.
Member states could face mandatory national targets should their progress be deemed insufficient by a review in 2014.
European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said the directive, which still needs the approval of the European Parliament and Council, would help the EU economy to be more competitive, as well as creating up to 400, 000 additional jobs.
“Europe is now much better placed to achieve its 20 % energy efficiency target for 2020,” he said in a statement. “The measures will reduce our energy bill while generating further growth and jobs. They stimulate investments and make our energy using products more efficient.”