EU lawmakers have been criticised for failing to put in place the measures needed to reach an energy savings target of 20 per cent by 2020 in a new EU directive.

Negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission and Council have struck a deal on the energy efficiency directive that sets out binding measures for EU Member States to reduce energy consumption.

However the 20 per cent by 2020 target proposed by the European Commission was rejected during trialogue talks in favour of a less ambitious goal.

“The Council substantially watered down text from the Commission and especially the Parliament,” said Arianna Vitali, Policy Officer for Energy Conservation at WWF European Policy Office. “This deal reflects neither the ambition nor the urgency needed to put the EU on the right path towards 2020.”

“This Directive will substantially miss the huge benefits energy savings could bring in terms of job creation, reductions in energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions cuts,” added Vitali. “Member States need to wake up and realise that this deal is just one small step in creating the robust energy efficiency policies needed for the future.”

Under the new directive, Member States will be allowed to set their own targets for energy efficiency. The result is likely to be a 17 per cent improvement on energy savings by 2020.

UK energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey said that the directive would maintain the EU’s position as a global leader in tackling climate change and that it signalled a “step change” in energy efficiency policy.

The European Commission says that the directive will save billions of euros on energy imports. The main core of the legislation is an obligation on energy companies to help their customers save energy.

It also requires the public sector to take a lead in building renovation and ‘green’ procurement, and promotes greater use of cogeneration.

“During the last few months enough political momentum has been built up for the EU Member States to lift the level of ambition of the Directive in the final negotiations,” said Danish minister for climate, energy and buildings, Martin Lidegaard. “Just a few months ago the European Parliament and the Council were so far apart that it was almost utopian to believe in an agreement.

“But now we have taken another big step towards a more sustainable energy future.”