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D-Day looms for EU energy policies

Europe's leaders will meet tomorrow (October 23rd) and attempt to agree on the foundations of a new EU Climate and Energy Policy for 2030, with energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewables top of the agenda.
Back in 2008, EU member states came together to sign up for a 2020 package, pledging to a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as well as agreeing to ensure that they got a fifth of their energy from renewable sources.
However, since that agreement was signed, the Eurozone has been plunged into recession, the Fukushima nuclear power plant went into meltdown and, most recently, unrest in Ukraine has prompted concerns that the continent's gas supplies could be in jeopardy.
In the light of these events, policymakers have moved away from a focus on addressing climate change towards ensuring energy security, with this week's meeting of the 28 EU heads of state all about finding a balance between the two priorities and, most importantly, drawing up concrete aims to be met by 2030.
Notably, the 2030 package will, if agreed upon, be much more ambitious than the plan that was put in place for 2020.
Already on the table and set to be discussed are the proposals put forward by the European Commission, with these including a 40 per cent greenhouse gas emission reduction target, a 27 per cent renewables target and a 30 per cent energy efficiency goal.
Alongside the Commission's recommendations, industry groups have also been invited to put forward their thoughts on how Europe can reduce harmful emissions while simultaneously ensuring energy security over the next 15 years.
Among those bodies contributing to the debate is the construction industry, which has argued that 61 per cent of gas that is imported into the EU is used to heat buildings.
With proper direction, the sector has stated, this can be reduced by as much as two-thirds by 2030, with ambitious building energy renovation targets key to ensuring this gets done.
Furthermore, writing for the Euroactiv website, the heads of Eurima - the European Insulation Manufacturers Association - explain: "Ambitious building renovation strategies would boost local, stable employment, and put our economies back on the growth track."
However, in an open letter addressed to the 28 heads of state, three separate construction industry associations have warned that while widespread renovation of existing building stock could significantly reduce gas usage and so lessen Europe's dependence on imports, "the 2030 Package debate largely ignores the huge potential in the buildings sector".
Going into the talks, state leaders have also been tasked with drawing up contingency plans showing how their own countries would manage, should energy supplies from foreign sources be disrupted over the winter months, with the EU also demanding each member state carry out 'stress tests' for such a scenario.
According to a number of preliminary reports, the Paris talks are likely to prove fruitful, with many observers confident that the ambitious targets will be agreed upon. What is less certain, however, is how the different member states agree to fund the move towards renewables and what role renovating existing building stock will play in ensuring these goals are met.

Posted by Rachel Jenkins