Soon, the Comission is due to wrap up the current debate on energy efficiency measures, introducing a GDP based paneuropan standard, somehow intended to be applicable all over the continent. Quite a daunting task, and not surprisingly, both business, Green NGO’s and national governments are rather sceptical. This article  sums up a lot of the debate.

 “The European Steel Association, or Eurofer, said “there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all indicator” and that “it would be dangerous to work with overall indicators.”

Other groups – including Orgalime, the European Engineering Industries Association – say indicators need to be based on robust data.

“Resource efficiency indicators need to make sure decisions are based on a deep analysis,” Veronique Steukers of the Nickel Institute agreed.”

and for the Greens…

This indicator cannot be used to achieve the Commission’s vision for 2050, whereby the EU’s economy respects constraints and planetary boundaries,” Friends of the Earth Europe said in documents presented to the Commission.

The GDP measure does not accurately show whether an economy has improved or worsened its resource use,” the green campaigners wrote.” 

Efficiency can be a tricky concept, but even trickier remains measuring it. and, to be practical, to encourage it. On top, efficiency can mean different things to different people. Driving a SUV in the country side is different from in the city. Using a Solar panel in your summer-house is different from relying on it in your daily work.

Efficiency in both production and products is driven by the market. That’s why production sites have a strict control and why engineers are battling in the innovation race to present the long-term cheapest appliance or vehicle. This is simply a Life Cycle Cost Analysis, which can, naturally, if you like, be compared to an environmental impact estimate.

Most important however, is the measurement obsession. Believe me, I’ve answered those mandatory, and sometimes voluntary, forms. Including the ones supposed to be forwarded to Eurostat for compilation, something the collectors all admit is meaningless.

But also potentially dangerous. Legislation, or the potential for legislation, unfortunately tends to bring out the worst in people.

Simply because it’s irresistible. Not naming anyone in particular, imagine a company, having invented the perfect – please add from your imagination – tool, seeing the opportunity to get a cap on the slightly less efficient competitor. The PR firm you hire, then, after presenting your solid report to the legislators, turns to more than eager NGO’s, finding a new target to hit, and thus boost publicity.

This happens all the time, and the problem is that companies that should be busy producing goods, inventing great technology and presenting their workers with a stimulating task and handing out a fat paycheck, are instead growing gray hair over forms to fill in and the bills from the  PR firms.






  • Einar Du Rietz is a journalist and communications consultant based in Europe. He has authored several environmental reports for the Electrolux Group and written many blogs for the Center for the New Europe at CNE Environment.