By using energy more efficiently, Europeans can lower their energy bills, reduce their reliance on external suppliers of oil and gas and help protect the environment.
Energy efficiency has to be increased at all stages of the energy chain from generation to final consumption. At the same time, the benefits of energy efficiency must outweigh the costs, for instance those involved in renovations. EU measures therefore focus on sectors where the potential for savings is greatest such as buildings.
Energy efficiency targets for 2020 and 2030
The EU has set itself a 20% energy savings target by 2020 when compared to the projected use of energy in 2020 – roughly equivalent to turning off 400 power stations.
At an EU summit in October 2014, EU countries agreed on a new energy efficiency target of 27% or greater by 2030. The European Commission had proposed 30% in its Energy Efficiency Communication .
Policies to improve energy efficiency
The EU has adopted a number of measures to improve energy efficiency in Europe. They include:
- an annual reduction of 1.5% in national energy sales
- EU countries making energy efficient renovations to at least 3% of buildings owned and occupied by central governments per year
- mandatory energy efficiency certificates accompanying the sale and rental of buildings
- minimum energy efficiency standards and labelling for a variety of products such as boilers, household appliances, lighting and televisions (EcoDesign)
- the preparation of National Energy Efficiency Action Plans every three years by EU countries
- the planned rollout of close to 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas by 2020
- large companies conducting energy audits at least every four years
- protecting the rights of consumers to receive easy and free access to data on real-time and historical energy consumption.
Energy efficiency progress
According to the Energy Efficiency Communication of July 2014, the EU is expected to achieve energy savings of 18%-19% by 2020 – missing the 20% target by 1%-2%. However, if EU countries implement all of the existing legislation on energy efficiency, the 20% target can be reached without additional measures.
The EU's drive towards a more energy efficient future has already produced substantial benefits for Europeans. For instance:
- new buildings consume half the energy they did in the 1980s
- energy intensity in EU industry decreased by almost 19% between 2001 and 2011
- more efficient appliances are expected to save consumers €100 billion annually – about €465 per household – on their energy bills by 2020
- EU countries have committed themselves to rolling out close to 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas by 2020, leading to greater savings for consumers
- the share of refrigerators meeting the highest energy efficiency labelling classes (A and above) increased from less than 5% in 1995 to more than 90% in 2010
Further benefits are expected in the future. They include:
- for every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%
- lower energy costs for people who live and work in energy efficient buildings, as well as additional benefits such as improved air quality and protection from external noise provided by energy efficient windows
- business opportunities for European companies such as construction firms and manufacturers of energy-using equipment
- new jobs in construction, manufacturing, research, and other industries investing in energy efficiency
Financing Energy Efficiency
The EU has support schemes and initiatives to accelerate energy efficiency investments.