The European Commission has set its goal of making a common and integrated policy for all of the Member States to battle energy inefficiency. In the essence of Succot, Israel can literally be "A light upon the Nations" in that matter.
Electricity consumption growing in spite of efficiency drive, says EU report
New rules proposed on September 19 aim to create a real European energy market by guaranteeing access for all suppliers, thereby increasing consumer choice. Hence the commission's preference for the "full ownership unbundling" of energy companies, where production and distribution channels are separated. This option offers the twin advantages of stimulating investment and reducing market domination. Another major proposal deals with companies from outside the EU. To protect the EU's open markets and their benefits, the Commission proposes tough conditions for ownership of assets by non-EU companies. The package will be discussed at the December 3 meeting of EU energy ministers before being put to EU leaders at the December summit.
European citizens are increasingly concerned about the environment. According to a recent Eurobarometer, protecting the environment ranks second only to terrorism among the issues citizens feel are best addressed at EU level. Over recent years, the European Union has adopted numerous successful measures, in the form of labeling, minimum efficiency requirements, voluntary agreements, incentives and saving obligations, to curb energy consumption and associated CO2 emissions. The EU Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme is the largest multi-country, multi-sector Greenhouse Gas emission trading scheme world-wide.
A recent report from the European Commission's in-house scientific service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC), indicates that overall electricity consumption is growing in the EU. Even if the EU and its member countries have adopted numerous successful measures to curb energy consumption and associated CO2 emissions, the electricity consumption in the residential sector of the EU grew at a rate comparable to overall GDP (10.8 percent), effectively nullifying overall savings between 1999 and 2004.
The JRC report shows that green policies have permanently changed the face of the appliance market for the better in terms of efficient energy use, particularly for "white goods" such as refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers. Nevertheless, the report clearly shows that electricity consumption in the EU continues to increase, across all sectors (residential, service and industry).
The increasing demand for electricity in the EU Member States is down to many different factors. The widespread use in the EU of traditional appliances such as dishwashers, tumble dryers, air conditioners and personal computers is one, as well as the introduction of consumer electronics and information and communication technology equipment such as set-top boxes, DVD players, broadband equipment and cordless telephones. Other important factors are the increased number of double or triple appliances, mainly TVs and refrigerators/freezers in households, and the general increase in single-family houses and larger houses and apartments.
One of the more notable findings of the report is that the area experiencing the biggest increase in consumption may be the easiest to remedy. The increasingly common phenomenon of household electronics on stand-by mode has a significant impact on a family's electricity consumption; however, new technology now makes it possible for manufacturers to produce equipment with very low stand-by losses. According to the report, simple changes in the way we regard the use of household appliances can lead to major energy savings. Researchers noticed, for example, that as older equipment is updated in a household, it is still often transferred to other parts of the home instead of being replaced, thereby contributing to greater electricity consumption.
Another important finding of the JRC report is that incandescent light bulbs, a relatively antiquated technology dating from the 19th century that waste a staggering 95% of the electricity they use to produce visible light, is a field where modern technology could contribute to more efficient energy use. Many governments around the world have advocated the phasing out of incandescent lighting (e.g. Australia by 2012), and the JRC report notes that this may be a valid area of savings for Europe, as well, in particular as new, very efficient technologies such as Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and recently white Light Emitting Diodes [LEDs] are rapidly penetrating the market.
Saving 20% by 2020: European Commission unveils its Action Plan on Energy Efficiency
"Europeans need to save energy. Europe wastes at least 20% of the energy it uses. By saving energy, Europe will help address climate change, as well as its rising consumption, and its dependence on fossil fuels imported from outside the Union's borders," said Energy Commissioner Piebalgs. "Energy efficiency is crucial for Europe: If we take action now, the direct cost of our energy consumption could be reduced by more than â‚¬100 billion annually by 2020; around 780 millions tons of CO2 will also be avoided yearly," he pointed out.
The Action Plan, which will be implemented over the next six years, is in response to the urgent call from Heads of State and Government at the Spring European Council this year for a realistic Energy Efficiency strategy. The Plan underlines the importance of minimum energy performance standards for a wide range of appliances and equipment (from household goods such as refrigerators and air conditioners to industrial pumps and fans), and for buildings and energy services. In combination with performance ratings and labeling schemes, minimum performance standards represent a powerful tool for removing inefficient products from the market, informing consumers of the most efficient products and transforming the market to make it more energy efficient. Minimum performance requirements for new and renovated buildings will be developed. Very low energy consumption buildings (or passive houses) also will be promoted.
The Plan emphasizes the considerable potential for reducing losses in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. The Action Plan proposes targeted instruments to improve the efficiency of both new and existing generation capacity and to reduce transmission and distribution losses.
A comprehensive set of measures for improving energy efficiency in the area of transport is put forward. The Plan recognizes that energy savings can be achieved, in particular, by ensuring fuel efficiency of cars, developing markets for cleaner vehicles, ensuring proper tire pressure and by improving the efficiency of urban, rail, maritime and aviation transport systems. The Plan recognizes the importance of changing transportation behavior.
Israel has some solutions
Israeli companies and innovators are constantly researching and developing ideas aimed at having the general populace go about its everyday activities in an energy-efficient manner. These inventions and gadgets are - as a rule - "non-invasive," meaning that they do not require special effort on the part of anyone to take any particular steps. These activities include setting of standards - the most important being minimum energy performance standards for appliances - promulgating regulations, dissemination of information and the like.
One of these innovations has been reported recently in The Jerusalem Post (One on One: "Dream big - who knew we'd have Israel?" by Ruthie Blum, September 12, 2007). Hyman Brown - who also designed and built Florida's Disney World and the World Trade Center, gave the Post an exclusive preview of "REAL Housing (Renewed Energy for Affordable Living)," the business he is officially launching next month at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, where he teaches. Brown, together with his students at the University of Colorado, has invented fully equipped solar homes. The 70-meter house is supposed to cost only $50,000 and includes all electrical appliances.
The author is head of the International Department at the Joseph Shem-Tov law firm.