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 that result from carrying out 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) – this is roughly equivalent to turning off 400 power stations.
On 30 November 2016 the Commission proposed an update to the Energy Efficiency Directive including a new 30% energy efficiency target for 2030, and measures to update the Directive to make sure the new target is met.
On 14 June 2018 the Commission, the Parliament and the Council reached a political agreement which includes a binding energy efficiency target for the EU for 2030 of 32.5%, with a clause for an upwards revision by 2023. This political agreement must now be translated into all EU languages and formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council, and then published in the Official Journal of the EU.
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
- the Commission has published guidelines on good practice in energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency progress
Energy consumption in the EU gradually decreased between 2007-2014. In 2015 and 2016 it increased, partly due to cooler winters and lower fuel prices: primary energy consumption in 2016 was 4% above the 2020 target. As a result, additional efforts may be needed to ensure that the 2020 target is met, especially as economic growth tends to lead to increased demand for energy.
- 2017 progress report
- 2016 progress report
- 2015 progress report
- Assessment by EU country on energy efficiency: part 1 | part 2
EU countries have implemented energy efficiency measures in all sectors, and these have contributed considerably to a decrease in EU energy consumption. The EU's drive towards a more energy efficient future has also 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 16% between 2005 and 2014
- 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 almost 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas by 2020, leading to better information and savings for consumers
- The share of refrigerators in the highest energy efficiency labelling classes (A and above) increased from less than 5% in 1995 to more than 90% in 2010.
With the implementation of energy efficiency legislation and ambitious energy efficiency programmes in Europe, further benefits are expected in the future. They include:
- Lower demand for EU gas imports.
- 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
- Targeted energy efficiency measures in buildings can help households with lower incomes to improve their living conditions
- Lower energy costs for companies, in particular energy-intensive industries
- Less need for additional generation and grid capacities with higher energy efficiency levels
- Boosting domestic energy efficiency investments will bring new business opportunities for European companies such as construction firms and manufacturers of energy-using or transport equipment, which is likely to have a positive impact on economic growth in Europe
- New jobs in construction, manufacturing, research, and other industries investing in energy efficiency.
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling in our buildings and industry accounts for half of the EU's energy consumption. Moreover, 84% of heating and cooling is still generated from fossil fuels, while only 16% is generated from renewable energy. In order to fulfil the EU's climate and energy goals, the heating and cooling sector must sharply reduce its energy consumption and cut its use of fossil fuels.
In February 2016, the Commission proposed an EU heating and cooling strategy. This is a first step in exploring the issues and challenges in this sector, and solving them with EU energy policies.
Financing Energy Efficiency
The EU has support schemes and initiatives to accelerate energy efficiency investments.