By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union is almost on track to reach its goal of improving energy savings by a fifth by 2020 and may consider a significantly higher target for the next decade, according to a draft European Commission document seen by Reuters.
Energy efficiency has risen up the agenda in Europe as member states seek ways to reduce dependency on imported fossil fuels in the context of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has led to the cut-off of Russian gas to Ukraine.
EU heads of state and government will debate efficiency and energy security next week as concern mounts that the cut-off could result in knock-on disruptions to EU supplies.
An EU goal to improve energy savings by 20 percent by 2020 versus projected use, or business as usual, was initially a non-binding target. Member states were expected to meet only about half of it.
But in a progress report, the EU Commission found that the bloc will achieve energy savings of around 18 to 19 percent, after the Danish EU presidency in 2012 pushed through a law to enforce the 20 percent efficiency target.
It concluded there is no need for extra "emergency EU legislation" to bring member states into line.
Looking to a set of 2030 energy targets, expected to be agreed provisionally by member states later this year and turned into a formal legislative proposal early next year, the Commission document said that an energy savings goal of 30 percent in 2030 is required to maintain momentum.
An even higher goal of 35 percent could be considered "taking into account the increased importance of energy efficiency in the context of the European Energy Security Strategy", it said, referring to the Commission's report on how to make energy supply less vulnerable. [ID:nL6N0O64LG]
The document is not expected to be made public until July, and the Commission says it does not comment on unpublished documents.
Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said late on Wednesday, however, that the debate continued on the precise level of a new efficiency goal. [ID:nL6N0OZ3AG]
Those reluctant to push for more ambitious goals object to the upfront cost of efficiency measures, but the European Parliament earlier this year backed a 40 percent goal, which is also supported by environment campaigners and the building insulation industry.
Friends of the Earth Europe cites modeling carried out by the Commission, which shows a 40 percent efficiency target could reduce the amount of imported gas from nations such as Russia by 40 percent. At the lower end of the range, an efficiency target of 27 percent would reduce gas imports by 16 percent compared with 2010 levels.
(editing by Jane Baird)