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The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
The reduction of energy demand in buildings through the adoption of energy efficiency policy is a key pillar of the European Union (EU) climate and energy strategy. Energy Efficiency first emerged in the EU energy policy agenda in the 1970s and was progressively transformed with shifting global and EU energy and climate policies and priorities. The paper offers a review of EU energy policies spanning over the last half century with a focus on policy instruments to encourage measures on energy efficiency in new and existing buildings. Starting from early policies set by the EU in response to the Oil Embargo in the 1973, the paper discusses the impact of EU energy policies in stimulating energy efficiency improvements in the building sector ranging from the SAVE Directive to the recently 2018 updated Energy Performance of Buildings Directive and Energy Efficiency Directive. The review explores the progress made over the last 50 years in addressing energy efficiency in buildings and highlights successes as well as remaining challenges. It discusses the impact of political priorities in reshaping how energy efficiency is addressed by EU policymakers, leading to a holistic approach to buildings, and provides insights and suggestions on how to further exploit the EU potential to save energy from buildings.