Energy efficiency directive

The 2012 energy efficiency directive 

Directive 2012/27/EU establishes a set of binding measures to help the EU reach its 20% energy efficiency target by 2020. This means that overall EU energy consumption should be no more than 1483 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) of primary energy or 1086 Mtoe of final energy. Under the directive, all EU countries are required to use energy more efficiently at all stages of the energy chain, including energy generation, transmission, distribution and end-use consumption.

In the context of the Energy Efficiency Directive, a number of important measures have been adopted throughout the EU to improve energy efficiency in Europe, including

  • policy measures to achieve energy savings equivalent to annual reduction of 1.5% in national energy sales
  • EU countries making energy efficient renovations to at least 3% per year of buildings owned and occupied by central governments
  • national long-term renovation strategies for the building stock in each EU country
  • mandatory energy efficiency certificates accompanying the sale and rental of buildings
  • the preparation of national energy efficiency action plans (NEEAPs) every three years 
  • minimum energy efficiency standards and labelling for a variety of products such as boilers, household appliances, lighting and televisions (energy label and ecodesign)
  • the planned rollout of close to 200 million smart meters for electricity and 45 million for gas by 2020
  • obligation schemes for energy companies to achieve yearly energy savings of 1.5% of annual sales to final consumers
  • 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 also published guidelines on good practice in energy efficiency.

The 2018 amending directive

In 2018, as part of the 'Clean energy for all Europeans package', the new amending Directive on Energy Efficiency (2018/2002) was agreed to update the policy framework to 2030 and beyond.

The key element of the amended directive is a headline energy efficiency target for 2030 of at least 32.5%. The target, to be achieved collectively across the EU, is set relative to the 2007 modelling projections for 2030.

In absolute terms, this means that EU energy consumption should be no more than 1273 Mtoe (million tonnes of equivalent) of primary energy and/or no more than 956 Mtoe of final energy.

Taking account the withdrawal of the UK, the Commission has taken a decision that the equivalent target after the UK no longer applies EU law should be no more than 1128 Mtoe of primary energy and no more than 846 Mtoe of final energy.

The directive allows for a possible upward revision in the target in 2023, in case of substantial cost reductions due to economic or technological developments. It also includes an extension to the energy savings obligation in end use, introduced in the 2012 directive. Under the amending directive, EU countries will have to achieve new energy savings of 0.8% each year of final energy consumption for the 2021-2030 period, except Cyprus and Malta which will have to achieve 0.24% each year instead.

The directive entered into force in December 2018 and should be transposed into national law by Member States by 25 June 2020, except for metering and billing provisions which has a different deadline (25 October 2020). Under the Governance Regulation 2018/1999 , Member States are required to draw up integrated 10-year national energy and climate plans (NECPs) outlining how they intend to meet the energy efficiency and other targets for 2030.    

Other elements in the amended directive include

  • stronger rules on metering and billing of thermal energy by giving consumers - especially those in multi-apartment building with collective heating systems – clearer rights to receive more frequent and more useful information on their energy consumption, also enabling them to better understand and control their heating bills
  • requiring Member States to have in place transparent, publicly available national rules on the allocation of the cost of heating, cooling and hot water consumption in multi-apartment and multi-purpose buildings with collective systems for such services
  • monitoring efficiency levels in new energy generation capacities
  • updated primary energy factor (PEF) for electricity generation of 2.1 (down from the current 2.5)
  • a general review of the Energy Efficiency Directive (required by 2024)

Updated measures relating to national long-term renovation strategies are now covered under the amended Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EU)2018/844.

Energy efficiency in the European Green Deal

With the European Green Deal, the EU is increasing its climate ambition and aims at becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. The Commission has therefore pledged to review the existing legislation and revise it where necessary to meet the 2030 greenhouse gas emission target.

As the first step in the process of reviewing the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Commission published on 3 August 2020 assessment roadmap and opened a period for public feedback on the concept, ending on 21 September. This will feed in to the Commission’s preparatory work for the review.


Recommendations for EU countries

The European Commission has published guidance notes to help EU countries to transpose fully the different elements of the 2018 amending directive into national law

Guidance notes were also published to help EU countries to transpose fully the different elements of the 2012 directive into national law

Implementing the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU – Commission Guidance [COM(2013) 762]

Library of Guidance Notes (CIRCABC)

More specific good practice guidance for Member States on the implementation of aspects of Articles 9-11 relating to collectively provided thermal energy in multi-apartment buildings has also been developed at the request of the Commission.


The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union as of 1 February 2020. The Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community (OJ C 384I, 12.11.2019, p. 1) entered into force on the same date.

It  provides for a transition period which will end on 31 December 2020. During the transition period, Union law, with a few exceptions, is applicable to and in the United Kingdom.

For the purposes of Union law applicable to it during the transition period, the United Kingdom is treated as an EU Member State, but will not participate in EU decision-making and decision-shaping.


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