Energy efficiency: Targets, directives and rules

By using energy more efficiently and thereby consuming less, Europeans can lower their energy bills, help protect the environment and reduce the EU’s reliance on external suppliers of oil and gas.

In order to achieve these benefits, energy efficiency needs to be improved throughout the full energy chain, from production to final consumption.

At the same time, the benefits of energy savings 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 the greatest, such as buildings, or where a coordinated approach is required.

20% energy savings by 2020

In 2012, under the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU, the EU set a 20% energy efficiency target by 2020 (when compared to the projected use of energy in 2020). In concrete terms, this means lowering the EU’s final energy consumption to no more than 1,086 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) and primary energy consumption to no more than 1,483 Mtoe.This is roughly equivalent to turning off 400 power stations. 

In order to achieve this, EU countries were required to

In December 2018, the revised Energy Efficiency Directive entered into force (amending Directive EU (2018/2002) updating some specific provisions and introducing new elements. Above all, it establishes a headline EU energy efficiency target for 2030 of at least 32.5% (compared to projections), with a clause for a possible upwards revision by 2023. The 32.5 % target for 2030 translates into final energy consumption of 956 Mtoe and/or primary energy consumption of 1,273 Mtoe in the EU-28.

Under the Regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action (EU)2018/1999, each Member States is required to set out a 10-year integrated national energy and climate plan (NECP) for 2021-2030, outlining how it intends to meet the 2030 targets for energy efficiency and for renewable energy. With the draft NECPs having been submitted by early 2019, the Commission published a detailed assessment of these draft plans in June 2019 with country-specific recommendations. Under the regulation, Member States need to finalise their respective NECPs by the end of 2019.

National energy efficiency targets for 2020

To reach the EU’s 20% energy efficiency target by 2020, individual EU countries set their own indicative national energy efficiency targets.

Depending on country preferences, these targets were based on primary or final energy consumption, primary or final energy savings, or energy intensity.

Progress towards the 2020 target

Following a gradual decrease between 2007 and 2014, energy consumption increased between 2014 and 2017. The increase could partly be attributed to good economic performance since 2014 with low oil prices and colder winters. Data from Eurostat (April 2019) shows that the primary energy consumption was 5.3 % above the 2020 targets in 2017, whereas the final energy consumption was 3.4% above those targets.

If energy consumption continues to increase in the coming year, the EU will not reach its 2020 target for both primary and final energy consumption.

Europe needs to further intensify its efforts to deliver energy savings in the short term and the Commission set up a task force in 2018 to look more closely at measures that might reverse this trend.

Task force on mobilising efforts to reach the 2020 targets

The Commission established a task force with Member States to discuss with stakeholders the reasons for this new trend and potential measures to address the problem.

The first two meetings (in September and November 2018) took a closer look at the figures and, in consultation with Member States and stakeholders, identified a number of actions that might address the situation.

Further meetings in 2019 are continuing the close monitoring of figures and consumption trends in the context of the Member State annual progress reports and the latest Eurostat figures on energy efficiency. In addition, the Commission is  closely following the implementation and transposition of energy efficiency legislation in EU Member States. 

Other measures towards energy efficiency

EU countries have implemented energy efficiency measures in all sectors, and these have produced substantial benefits for Europeans, for instance

  • new buildings consume half the energy buildings 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, such as:

  • 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.

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