Technology & Energy Efficiency

Innovative Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as ‘smart meters’ to monitor and optimise energy efficiency will soon be used to help the EU achieve its energy efficiency goals, if the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee Report are taken into account.

This Report for a Resolution on the role of ICT in promoting energy efficiency was adopted by Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee on 07 April 2010.

The EU has set itself ambitious targets for 2020; saving 20% of primary energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. Parliament’s ITRE Committee wants to see the Commission come forward with legislative proposals that encourage the use of Information and Communication Technologies in the transition to this energy-efficient, low-carbon economy.

The Resolution comes in response to a Commission Communication, which was adopted in March 2009. This Communication outlines the potential of ICT in contributing to improving energy efficiency, and identifies possible actions to ensure the potential is exploited.

The Industry Committee’s Report

During discussions preceding the ITRE Committee’s adoption of the Report, Rapporteur Patrizia Toia (EPP, Italy) called on the Commission to come forward with specific, binding and broader rules and a clear timeline for these proposals.

Promoting smart grids and improving infrastructure, including interconnections, was also seen as crucial by a majority of MEPs. Standardisation and a harmonised measurement for energy consumption were also underlined as important issues, as was the role of targeting ICT in metropolitan areas in order to most effectively improve energy efficiency.

MEPs in the ITRE Committee adopted a number of amendments to the Draft Report. Amendments to the Draft Report included more focus on the need for investments in R&D and innovation, including ‘smart meters’ that monitor and optimise energy consumption. Additional mentions to smart grids were also added.

The need for standardised measuring methods, enabling technologies and the role of the ICT sector in achieving this were further underlined. The Committee Report also points out that, while ICTs are a valuable step-stone to improve energy efficiency, the ICT sector itself should adopt a more sustainable development path. The added value of ICT tools to make the transport sector greener was also strengthened in the Report.

Ms Toia’s Report on the role of Information and Communication Technologies in promoting energy efficiency and a low-carbon economy was adopted in Committee by 30 votes in favour 23 against and 1 abstention. The Resolution will now be adopted by the European Parliament in plenary.

The Commission Communication

The Commission Communication, which was adopted on 12 March 2009, says that ICTs can enable energy efficiency improvements by reducing the amount of energy required to deliver a given service. This could be achieved, for example, by monitoring and directly managing energy consumption. ICTs could also provide the tools for more energy-efficient business models, working practices and lifestyles, such as eCommerce, teleworking and eGovernment applications.

The Commission says however that in the absence of specific policy measures, the potential of ICT to improve energy efficiency in the timeframe of the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency targets may not be realized. The Communication therefore sets out the context for issuing a Recommendation to both Member States and the ICT industry on specific actions that should be taken to make best use of ICT in improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon emissions.

The measures are structured around three strands of action:
• The ICT sector will be invited to set itself targets and reach a collective agreement on measurement methodologies that focus on accuracy, transparency and verifiability of the energy consumption and carbon emissions of its processes, at company and sector level
• Working partnerships between the ICT sector and other major energy-using sectors will be encouraged to identify where and how ICTs can play a role in improving efficiency and reducing emissions in those sectors and thus accelerate the delivery of tools to assess and to optimise energy performance on a comparable basis
• Member States should be called upon to enable the EU-wide roll-out of ICT tools likely to trigger a shift in the behaviour of consumers, businesses and communities and at the same time drive demand for innovative ICT solutions to optimise the energy performance of their own operations

The Communication concludes by saying that while Europe has set itself ambitious targets for 2020 - saving 20% of primary energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% - energy savings are not being realised fast enough. ICTs present an untapped opportunity to complement existing measures and contribute to achieving the 2020 targets.