EU states ‘splashed efficiency cash on refurbishment’

Several EU member states have been splashing the cash meant for energy efficiency on refurbishing their public buildings, claims a new EU report. While the EU has made nearly €5billion […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Several EU member states have been splashing the cash meant for energy efficiency on refurbishing their public buildings, claims a new EU report.

While the EU has made nearly €5billion (£4bn) available for efficiency measures, the countries claiming the biggest portion of this for the 2007-13 period – the Czech Republic, Italy and Lithuania – didn’t focus enough on the actual savings.

In some cases the payback period – how long it takes to save back the money spent on energy saving measures through energy bills – is 150 years.

That’s according to the European Commission’s Court of Auditors which published a report this week on the cost-effectiveness of investments in energy efficiency, after carrying out an audit of the three countries.

Harald Wögerbauer (pictured), an ECA Member said: “The Member States were essentially using this money to refurbish public buildings while energy efficiency was, at best, a secondary concern. Since 2000, the European Union, through its Cohesion Policy funds, spent almost €5 billion for co-financing energy efficiency measures in the Member States.

“The Court found that the projects selected by Member State authorities for financing did not have rational objectives in terms of cost-effectiveness, i.e. cost per unit of energy saved. The planned payback period for the investments was 50 years on average, and up to 150 years in certain cases.”

The auditors looked at four operational programmes and a sample of 24 energy efficiency investment projects in public buildings including a hospital and university.

The money was spent as part of the EU’s cohesion policy, which is meant to bring together members by levelling the economic and social difference between countries.

The ECA is recommending the European Commission makes the cash subject to a “proper needs assessment” and regular monitoring, plus the introduction of a maximum acceptable simple payback period.