Principal Adviser to the Director General for Energy, European Commission by Jurei YADA – Policy analyst – IPEEC
“The energy landscape is changing at an unprecedented pace, both in the world and in the European Union,” says my interlocutor, and so begins IPEEC Newsletter’s chat with Dr. Tudor Constantinescu, Principal Adviser to the Director General for Energy in the European Commission and newly appointed Chairman of IPEEC’s Policy Committee. The day is a sunny one, and we sit in the lobby of a building not far from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Tudor is here to represent the European Union at a series of meetings on energy efficiency, a subject he has been deeply involved in for twenty years, first at the Energy Charter in Brussels and then at the Romanian Agency for Energy Conservation (ARCE), the Network of European Energy Agencies, and the Buildings Performance Institute Europe, which he founded and led as Executive Director. Tudor’s remark comes in response to a question about the role of energy efficiency in the European Union. “The EU is at the forefront of sustainable energy policy – in renewable energy and energy efficiency in particular,” he states. “It enjoys support from the highest level, from the President of the Commission. At the same time, one of the major projects the EU has is the Energy Union, whose slogan is ‘energy efficiency first’. Strongly promoted by our Director General, it is the core principle of our energy policies, our energy transition, and the efforts we are undertaking to achieve our 2030 objectives on climate change, sustainable energy, and the security of our [energy] supply and competitiveness.” The EU is indeed a major player in energy efficiency. Given the quadruple challenges of import dependency, energy prices, decarbonization, and technology mixthat it faces, energy efficiency – along with renewable energy sources – is at the core of the European Commission’s energy solutions for 2020-2050. Supporting these policies are key pieces of legislation, namely the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and the 2011 Energy Efficiency Directive. The EU is currently discussing how to move ahead and what revisions in legislation and policies would be required so that, after a 20 percent improvement expected for 2020,the bloc can achieve at least a 27 percent (possibly 30 percent) efficiency target by 2030. “We try to offer as much as possible a platform for dialogue and cooperation, as well as support by financing energy efficiency projects,” Tudor explains. He gives his answers calmly, precisely, and with the quiet confidence that makes it easy to see him as the expert he is. “For example, we have the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 that has allocated up to EUR 45 billion for the low carbon economy. We also fund research and innovation through Horizon 2020 and are mobilizing EUR 315 billion in additional investments for sustainable energy through the Juncker Plan, which is the European Fund for Strategic Investments.” The task of working with 28 member states in the Commission must be a complex one. I ask him if there are any similarities between working in the EU and working with IPEEC – a partnership of 16 major economies and the world’s biggest energy consumers. “IPEEC is a partnership – it is voluntary cooperation in exercise and highly beneficial,” he says, after briefly reflecting on the question. “Countries make their own commitments and bring their own understanding of the issues to the table. In the Commission there is the EU approach – the commitment is to push and achieve the common objectives of all EU members, and to ensure that all make contributions in line with their skills and resources while always aiming to improve and achieve better results.” Tudor believes strongly in the need for cooperation and trust between countries to further energy efficiency for the benefit of all. “Resources and knowledge may differ geographically, but the art is to put technologies and resources together to bring the benefits – efficiency benefits – to the transition to a low carbon economy everywhere,” he says, with an emphasis on the last word.
In this, he believes IPEEC provides a valuable platform for dialogue and exchange. “IPEEC offers the basis for a platform for the EU to share its experiences and successes, and also the challenges it faced, on energy efficiency with a lot of countries, not just the G20 and large economies but also beyond. We need such a platform and to strengthen it […], to really build knowledge and trust among participating countries and engage other international organizations, such as the IEA – which has strong analytical capabilities. The world is big and big actions are required, locally and regionally.” He continues, “it is not that someone wants to impose something arbitrarily, but a true collaborative partnership exercise. It is important that we have a common understanding, access to the best knowledge and technology, so that those acting in different regions can make the best decisions on energy efficiency and develop sustainability without locking-in inefficiency.” A good example of voluntary collaboration is the G20’s activities on energy efficiency. In 2014 G20 Leaders endorsed the G20 Energy Efficiency Action Plan for countries to work on six energy efficiency areas: transport, buildings, finance, networked devices, industrial energy management, and electricity generation.
This was followed by the G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Programme (EELP), the first long-term framework on energy efficiency for the G20 and beyond, adopted by G20 Leaders at the Hangzhou Summit in September 2016. IPEEC was mandated to coordinate the G20’s work under both plans. “The G20 provides an excellent platform bringing together large developed and developing economies, who are the largest energy consumers. […] The G20 Energy Efficiency Leading Programmeis a very good basis for starting enforced and strengthened action first of all for G20 countries, but also for other countries and organizations […]. It can support work in areas not immediately tackled by those involved in the EELP but that are also important for the countries involved,” he observes. Again, trust is an important factor for Tudor. He praises the increasing attention placed on energy efficiency by the G20 and the momentum for action it creates. He adds, however, that “it is a challenge to really bring cooperation to the level of trust and confidence that goes beyond the G20. I see the role for a platform on the basis of the work IPEEC has done to encourage various countries to go further and make their own commitments, to make their own policies that fit their circumstances and achieve optimal results.”
For this, he stresses the importance of a long-term view. “This concept is strong at the EU level- a long-term view of the costs of energy efficiency. It is vital not to base decisions on short-term calculations, but to really take into account long-term perspectives and impacts on society and the economy.” People, perhaps, are the biggest challenge of all. “We have to cope with the expectations people may have today. It is not so much about convincing them of the benefits of energy efficiency, but to convince people that we can bring these benefits to individuals , to the economy, and to the climate negotiations.” He says this with feeling and purpose, someone who knows that much has been done, but there is much still left to do. That is no doubt true, but one thing is clear: energy efficiency needs effective leadership, and IPEEC is in safe hands with its new Chairman, Dr. Tudor Constantinescu
TUDOR CONSTANTINESCU – Principal Adviser to the Director
General for Energy, European Commission by Jurei YADA – Policy analyst – IPEEC