Energy efficiency policy in Europe

Energy efficiency policy is guided by a combination of overarching energy and climate policy documents initiatives and Council Decisions that give specific attention to energy efficiency. The EU set itself a 20% energy savings target by 2020 when compared to the projected use of energy in 2020 – roughly equivalent to turning off 400 power stations. Most of the policies are directed towards meeting that target. At the EU summit in October 2014, EU countries agreed on a new energy efficiency target of 27% or greater by 2030.

eceee believes EPBD must focus on energy needs

eceee believes that energy efficiency first means that energy needs should be reduced as far as possible in order to avoid wasting energy from any source, including precious renewables. This principle is necessary to secure long-term sustainable building, avoid disappointment by users of nZEB and to save energy, resources, land impact and money. eceee now publishes an updated technical note on the EPBD Annex I, where these issues are defined. Read more.

New "Maze Guide" explains the Winter Package

The guide, "Your guide to understanding energy efficiency in the European Commission’s Clean Energy Package", focuses on energy efficiency aspects within the so-called Winter Package. Dowload (pdf).

New eceee briefing

Briefing #2. How to finance energy efficiency – Boost with ambitious legislation.
Download (pdf).

New eceee briefing

Briefing #1: How to finance energy efficiency – A higher energy efficiency target has huge benefits.
Download (pdf).


The current 2020 target on 20% energy efficiency is accompanied by a 20% greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions target and a 20% target for renewable energy in each Member State.  In July 2014 the Commission published the Communication on Energy Efficiency and its contribution to energy security and the 2030 Framework for climate and energy policy [COM(2014) 520 final] calling for a 30% energy efficiency target by 2030 (See eceee’s analysis of the impact assessment and eceee’s 2030 framework pages). However, EU countries settled on a lower ambition with a energy efficiency target of 27% or greater by 2030. This was accompanied by a 40% GHG reductions target and a 27% renewables target for the same year. (See also an eceee report on target setting.)

Energy Union – summing up increasing activities

Since then, in February 2015 the Commission published a communication calling for a “Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy” [COM(2015) 80 final].  The Energy Union focuses on five dimensions: energy security; the internal energy market; energy efficiency; decarbonisation of the economy; and research, innovation and competitiveness. The Energy Union calls for an “energy efficiency first” approach (see eceee page on Energy Union).

    Energy efficiency targets for 2020

    The Energy Efficiency Directive, approved in 2012, was the legislative result of the EEP that was published in March 2011. The Directive puts a major focus on targets.  The first target concerns the indicative 20% target mentioned above. The target calls for energy consumption for the entire EU of no more than 1 474 Mtoe of primary energy and/or no more than 1 078 Mtoe of final energy in 2020. The second target concerns the public sector. (See more on the Energy Efficiency Directive page).

    2030 and beyond

    See eceee's dedicated policy page on the 2030 policy framework with a discussion paper on binding demand targets and eceee's responses to the consultation process.

    On 27 March 2013, the European Commission adopted a Green Paper on "A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies". This document launched a public consultation that ended on 2 July, allowing Member States, other EU institutions and stakeholders to express their views.

    The Green Paper raised a set of questions, including:

    • What type, nature and level of climate and energy targets should be set for 2030?
    • How can coherence between different policy instruments be attained?
    • How can the energy system best contribute to EU competitiveness?
    • How can Member States' different capacities to act be taken into account?

    The Commission believes that developing a 2030 framework for EU climate change and energy policies is necessary to provide certainty and reduced regulatory risk for investors and to mobilise the funding needed; to support progress towards a competitive economy and a secure energy system; and to establish the EU's 2030 ambition level for GHG reductions in view of a new international agreement on climate change foreseen for 2015.

    To address many of these issues, the Commission published its most recent communication on July 23, 2014, as mentioned above [[COM(2014) 520 final]]. It explains and quantifies the contribution that energy efficiency could make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to improving the Union's energy security that are both elements of an integrated framework for climate and energy policy. In line with the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Communication also reports on the outlook for attainment of the 20% target for energy efficiency in 2020.  While the Commission had previously proposed an improvement in 2030 of 25% as part of the strategy to deliver the 40% greenhouse gas emission reduction target in the most cost-effective manner. This has changed in the July Communication. It states: “However, given the increased relevance of bolstering EU energy security and reducing the Union’s import dependency, the Commission considers it appropriate to propose a higher target of 30%.”

    Earlier in 2014 the European Parliament called for a 40% target. The European Council will soon be deciding what it believes should be the target.

    energy efficiency policy

    Increasingly ambitious EU policies

    Europe has had increasingly more ambitious energy efficiency policies since the oil crises of the 1970s. Particularly since 2000, the pace of change has picked up significantly as the priority for energy efficiency gains ground.  The most significant indication of the policy direction in the EU has been through the energy efficiency (action) plans. An energy efficiency action plan came out April 26, 2000.  This was followed by another in 2006 and then most recently, an energy efficiency plan (EEP) in March 2011.

    The Energy Efficiency Plan covered targets, public sector measures, buildings, energy supply obligations, cogeneration and industry. The Plan also went into financing issues, promoting smart meters and smart grids, expanding the National Energy Efficiency Action Plans to cover the entire energy chain and not just energy demand.