Instead of learning to build on what has worked, they continue to cut corners, ignoring past successes or results to attain short-term gains. More than a quarter of all countries are expected to exceed their 2020 GDPs already, with France boasting the fastest growth rates in Europe.
In France, energy savings alone are likely to boost the economy by nearly 7 percent. That means more money in consumers’ pockets and more jobs in the economy. However, all this potential is going unfulfilled because the government is unwilling to mandate smart energy savings. That is one of the major failures of the past eight years.
A recent study by the Brussels-based International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that without measures like those already taken by France, the European Union’s average energy consumption growth over the next two decades will be 2.1 percent per year, compared to 1.8 percent per year under a successful strategy of promoting smart savings. The result will be a decrease in GDP of 1.2 percent a year in 2020 and 1.5 percent by 2050.
So the real losers are most likely our grandchildren’s children. Unfortunately, governments like ours are unwilling to sacrifice short-term gains, however small, for long-term growth, as the evidence makes clear. A policy based on rewarding utilities for saving energy rather than getting more of it for more of the time, while subsidies continue, will not improve anyone’s living standards — it will damage them.
Instead of learning to build on what has worked, they continue to cut corners, ignoring past successes or results to attain short-term gains. To rectify this, we need to make smart energy savings a requirement, not a choice, to build a new generation of French homes.
Leaving it up to utility companies, through only modest efficiency incentives, to protect customers, will not only divert billions of dollars in our current bailout program from investments in clean energy technology, it will also undermine the political mandate for the energy cuts that are so desperately needed.
The EU, our German allies, the United States and our common interests are already crying out for action.
France has pledged $68 billion in new clean energy investment over the next 10 years, from everything from renewables to energy efficiency. Further, France has called for energy savings measures and efficiency actions worth $240 billion over the next two decades, and reinforced the Common Agricultural Policy to promote smart agriculture by promoting integrated water management and building energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency savings in construction and the residential sector alone are expected to deliver 21 percent of the necessary amount of reductions, amounting to a total investment of over $120 billion. France, more than any other EU country, has the opportunity to capitalize on this breakthrough through standards and performance standards — a national energy agency should be established to protect consumers as well as the environment. This will help ensure a building industry that can be built to withstand the heavy duty of France’s booming real estate market.
Will utilities in France be required to source 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources? It is doubtful they will be. However, by tightening the building codes and cracking down on the demolition of solid walls using heat-loving materials, to make way for higher energy consumption areas, they will be forced to design new houses that are energy efficient. That is a win-win situation.
The only question is, how will energy savings in buildings affect energy consumption on a global scale? Europe’s history of not achieving a serious renewable energy strategy has left the continent with a shortage of renewable energy. The first hint of hope will come from France, and that is why the energy transition process has been among the greatest priorities of our new government.
By electing a president who seems to have a genuine commitment to reform and to France’s young people, the European Union, and a thriving and rapidly growing economy, we have a chance to prove the skeptics wrong.
European voters have sent us a message: The world’s energy problems cannot be solved on the margins. We, as a continent, have a rare opportunity to prevent Europe from becoming a full-time follower and to lead. We need a new president who understands that their work will save countless lives and billions of Euros in lost prosperity.