View from below a roof and sky of an energy-efficient building

Energy efficiency

Improving the efficiency with which energy is consumed by end-users is a central theme of the European Union's energy policy. Energy efficiency is one of the fastest and most cost effective ways to reduce CO2 emissions, contribute to energy security, and help to create new jobs and make European organisation more competitive.

Energy efficiency is at the heart of the EU’s Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and of the transition to a resource efficient economy. Energy efficiency is one of the most cost effective ways to enhance security of energy supply, and to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. In many ways, energy efficiency can be seen as Europe's biggest energy resource. This is why the EU has set itself a target for 2020 of saving 20% of its primary energy consumption compared to projections, and why this objective was identified in the European Commission’s Communication on Energy 2020 as a key step towards achieving our long-term energy and climate goals.

The JRC provides technical and scientific advice to the Commission's services for the design, implementation and monitoring of EU energy efficiency policies and programmes. Moreover a number of EU programmes are directly managed by the JRC on behalf of the Commission's Directorate-General for Energy.

More information:

Energy Efficiency - project website

Policy support for Energy Services Directive

Over the past number of decades, reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency have become more and more important. Because of this, the JRC supports policy in the field of energy, which includes the areas of energy service companies and suppliers obligations and White Certificates.

Throughout the past two decades, the EU has paid particular attention to reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency. The JRC provides scientific and technological assessment and analysis to policy makers. It focuses on policy and market analysis, and collaborates with relevant stakeholders. It provides data on national markets (technologies, potential, barriers) and assesses national policies through the assessment of the National Action Plans. In these action plans, the member states set out the targets, the technology mix they expect to use, the trajectory they will follow and the measures and reforms they will undertake to overcome the barriers to developing renewable energy. Particular emphasis is placed on the integration of energy supply and demand and on anticipating new concepts and developments of energy services (including demand response, distributed generation, smart meters and grids, green and white certificates, feed-in tariffs, etc.) allowing optimal use of energy demand, and on new business models that would support the transition to a sustainable energy system, including new financing schemes and removal of regulatory and technical barriers.

Suppliers obligations and White Certificates

With the increasing importance of establishing long-term synergies between end-use energy efficiency and energy market opening a number of EU member states have embarked on implementing energy efficiency policy portfolios that consist of energy saving obligations imposed on some category of energy market operators, in some cases coupled with a trading system for energy efficiency measures resulting in certified energy savings (tradable white certificates, TWCs).The JRC is providing scientific assessment of these innovative policy instruments.

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Suppliers obligations and White Certificates

JRC support to energy efficiency directives

Energy Service Companies

In recent years there has been an increased interest in the provision of energy services to achieve energy and environmental goals. In particular some new companies providing energy services to final energy users, including the supply and installations of energy efficient equipment, and/or the refurbishment of the building, have started to operate on the European market.

What characterises these companies, defined as Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), from the traditional energy consultants or equipment suppliers is the fact that they can also finance or arrange financing for the operation and their remuneration is directly tied to the energy savings achieved. The JRC analyses their activities to provide accurate information to policy makers, experts and other interested parties.

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Energy Service Companies operating in the European market and about their projects

The Covenant of Mayors

The Covenant of Mayors is a commitment by signatory towns and cities to go beyond the objectives of EU energy policy in terms of reduction in CO2 emissions through enhanced energy efficiency and cleaner energy production and use.

Local authorities have a key role in mitigating climate change. Over half of greenhouse gas emissions are created in and by cities. 80% of the population lives and works in cities, where up to 80% of energy is consumed. Local authorities, being the closest administration to the citizens are ideally positioned to understand their concerns. Moreover, they can address the challenges in a comprehensive way, facilitating the conciliation between the public and private interest and the integration of sustainable energy into overall local development goals, be it development of alternative energy, more efficient energy use or changes in behaviour.

Local governments must therefore become leading actors for implementing sustainable energy policies, and must be recognised and supported in their effort. The Covenant of Mayors is an ambitious initiative of the European Commission that gives the lead to Europe’s pioneering cities to mitigate climate change through the implementation of intelligent local sustainable energy policies that create stable local jobs and increase citizens’ quality of life and address crucial social issues.

The formal commitment of signatories is translated into concrete measures and projects. Signatory cities accept to report and being monitored on their implementation of the Action Plans. They also accept termination of their involvement in the Covenant in case of non-compliance.

Cities also commit to allocating sufficient human resources to the tasks, mobilising society in their geographical areas to take part in implementation of the action plan, including organisation of local energy days, and networking with other cities.

The preparation of Action Plans and reports requires that the cities acquire some technical and scientific skills. The JRC supports cities by:

  • operating a technical helpdesk service in co-operation with the Covenant of Mayors Office;
  • researching existing methodologies and tools for SEAP preparation and CO2 emissions inventories;
  • providing guidelines for drafting action plans and baseline CO2 emission inventory;
  • providing feedback to the cities on their action plan;
  • developing guidance on SEAP monitoring.

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JRC  support to the Covenant of Mayors

Lighting initiative

The GreenLight Programme is an on-going voluntary programme whereby private and public organisations commit towards the European Commission to reducing their lighting energy use, thus reducing polluting emissions. GreenLight was launched in February 2000.

In the area of residential lighting, studies conducted by the JRC show a huge potential for saving energy through better energy in residential lighting. In particular, following the phasing out of incandescent lighting, new lighting technologies such as Solid State Lighting offer very high efficiency levels and other advantages.

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GreenLight Programme

JRC support to residential lighting

Energy in buildings

In 2005 the European Commission launched the GreenBuilding Programme (GBP). GreenBuilding is a voluntary programme aiming at improving the energy efficiency of non-residential buildings in Europe on a voluntary basis. The programme addresses owners of non-residential buildings to realise cost-effective measures which enhance the energy efficiency of their buildings in one or more technical services. The programme covers both existing and new buildings.

More information

GreenBuilding brochure

JRC support to the GreenBuilding Programme

EU codes of conduct for ICT

Increasing use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) leads to increased electricity consumption. Stand-by power consumption is an increasing fraction of EU electricity use and the fast penetration of new and digital technology is likely to increase this share. It is estimated that stand-by power already accounts for about 10% of the electricity use in homes and offices of the EU Member States.

In 1999 a European Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament on policy instruments to reduce stand-by losses of consumer electronic equipment set the political frame for further actions in this field. As a result of the Council Conclusions on the Communication, two codes of conduct were introduced; one for External Power Supplies and one for Digital TV Services.

Later, additional codes of conduct were introduced for Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), broadband equipment, and data centres. The code of conduct is a flexible mechanism to initiate and develop policy to improve energy efficiency; they create also a forum for industry, experts and EU member states where an open and continuous dialogue on market, product and system performance takes place. Through the code of conduct, ambitious voluntary standards and commitments are set.

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JRC support to ICT codes of conduct

Motor challenge programme

The Motor challenge programme is a European Commission voluntary programme (launched in February 2003) through which industrial companies are aided in improving the energy efficiency of their motor driven systems. Any enterprise or organisation planning to contribute to the Motor challenge programme objectives can participate.

Companies that use motor driven systems can request "partner" status. Through the motor challenge, partners will receive:

  • aid in defining and carrying out an action plan, to reduce energy related operating expenses, while maintaining or improving reliability and quality of service;
  • public recognition for their contribution to achieving the objectives of the European Union's energy and environmental policies.

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JRC support to the Motor challenge programme

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