* Ministers want binding goal reflecting 30-40 percent
* Goal previously absent from Commission proposal
* Ukraine crisis ups pressure despite UK fears of
By Ben Garside
LONDON, June 17 Ministers from seven European
Union countries urged the bloc's executive to propose a binding
energy savings target next month, a sign of how Ukraine's gas
crisis is forcing lawmakers to find more ways of easing EU
dependence on Russian gas.
Environment and energy ministers from Germany, Belgium,
Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal said the
crisis in Ukraine, which transits around half the gas Russia
sends to Europe, has highlighted the EU's reliance on imports.
"A target is essential to highlight the importance of energy
efficiency, and a strong political commitment is crucial," the
ministers said told European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso in a joint letter seen by Reuters.
"The current situation in Ukraine emphasises the importance
of reducing dependence on imported oil and natural gas."
The ministers said the Commission's proposal should reflect
its January impact assessment on the EU's 2030 energy and
environment goals as well as the European Parliament's proposal
for an energy efficiency target.
The impact assessment outlined scenarios for increasing
Europe's energy efficiency by between 30-35 percent, while in
February the parliament called for a 40 percent goal as one of
three binding targets for 2030.
That would compare with a current non-binding 2020 goal of a
20 percent energy saving beneath projected levels, which the
bloc is not currently on track to meet from a patchwork of EU
and national measures such as applying standards for electric
appliances and new buildings.
Barroso is due to discuss the issue on Wednesday with energy
commissioner Guenther Oettinger and climate commissioner Connie
Hedegaard, who is strongly in favour of an energy saving goal as
part of efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
TRADING CONCERNS EASED
In January the Commission outlined two climate and energy
goals for 2030 - to cut greenhouse gases by 40 percent compared
with 1990 levels and to raise the share of renewable energy to
27 percent from 20 percent projected in 2020.
It said then it was not ready to announce an efficiency
target ahead of a July review of a 2012 law to improve the EU's
The Commission's previous concerns about how an efficiency
goal could undermine the bloc's flagship climate policy, the
Emissions Trading System (ETS), have eased, said Marion Santini
of the Coalition for Energy Savings, a lobby group of
businesses, workers' groups and environmental campaigners.
She referred to recent statements by EU officials which said
reform plans for the ETS would mean it could withstand any
shocks from increases in energy efficiency. [ID: nL6N0OJ435]
Britain is opposed to setting a 2030 efficiency goal,
arguing a single 2030 emission target would allow countries more
flexibility to pick the most cost-effective way to cut emissions
while maintaining secure and affordable energy supplies.
But the seven ministers said a separate efficiency target
was needed to save energy in sectors not regulated by the ETS,
such as transport, buildings and private households.
"Delivering energy efficiency will have an upfront cost of
investment - but this will be offset by returns in the form of
energy savings worth 1-2 trillion euros during 2020-2030," said
manufacturers group the European Alliance to Save Energy in a
separate letter to Barroso backing a 40 percent savings goal.
EU leaders are working towards an October deadline to reach
political agreement on the 2030 goals amid wrangling between
eastern and western nations about who should pay for emission
cuts and whether the bloc is risking the competitiveness of its
industries by acting before other major economies.
(Reporting by Ben Garside in London, editing by David Evans)