Energy efficiency

Reducing energy consumption and waste is of growing importance to the EU. In 2007 EU leaders set a target to cut the annual energy consumption of the Union by 20% by 2020. Energy efficiency measures are increasingly recognised as a means not only of achieving a sustainable energy supply, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, improving security of supply and reducing import bills, but also of promoting the EU’s competitiveness. Energy efficiency is therefore a strategic priority for the Energy Union, and the EU promotes the principle of ‘energy efficiency first’.

Legal basis

Article 194 TFEU.

Achievements

a.General framework

The Commission launched its first ‘Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential’ (COM(2006) 0545) in 2006. It was intended to mobilise the general public, policymakers and market actors, and transform the internal energy market in a way that would provide EU citizens with the most energy-efficient infrastructure (including buildings), products (including appliances and cars) and energy systems in the world. The objective of the Action Plan was to control and reduce energy demand and to take targeted action on consumption and supply in order to reduce annual consumption of primary energy by 20% by 2020 (compared with the energy consumption forecasts for 2020). Nonetheless, when estimates suggested that the EU was on course to achieve only half of the 20% objective, the Commission responded by setting energy efficiency topics as headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and developing a new and comprehensive Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP) in 2011 (COM(2011) 0109).

The current energy efficiency framework consists of a number of directives, the revision of which is either ongoing or planned. The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU), which entered into force in December 2012, requires Member States to set indicative national energy efficiency targets ensuring that the EU reaches its headline target of reducing energy consumption by 20% by 2020. Member States are free to make these minimum requirements more stringent as they strive to save energy. It also introduces a binding set of measures to help Member States achieve this target and sets legally binding rules for end-users and energy suppliers. Further energy efficiency standards for products and buildings were set with the Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC), the Energy Efficiency Labelling Directive (2010/30/EU) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EU).

In 2014, the Commission published a communication (COM(2014) 0520) on energy efficiency, in which it concluded that additional efforts on the part of the Member States would be needed, after its analysis had shown that the EU would only be able to achieve around 18-19% energy savings by 2020. According to the ‘Energy Efficiency Directive implementation progress report’ (COM(2015) 0574), published on 18 November 2015, the Member States are on track to achieve only 17.6% primary energy savings by 2020. As a consequence, the 2015 ‘Energy Union Roadmap’ (COM(2015) 0572) announced the review of the energy efficiency directives.

On 30 November 2016, the Commission presented the ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ (COM(2016) 0860) package of proposals with the aim of bringing EU energy legislation into line with the new 2030 climate and energy targets and contributing to the 2015 Energy Union goals (COM(2015) 0080). ‘Energy efficiency first’ is one of the key elements of the Energy Union in order to ensure secure, sustainable, competitive and affordable energy supply in the EU. In the revised directive, the Commission proposes an ambitious 30% energy efficiency target by 2030.

b.Cogeneration

A previous Cogeneration Directive (Directive 2004/8/EC) was repealed when the Energy Efficiency Directive entered into force in December 2012. The Energy Efficiency Directive requires Member States to assess and notify the Commission of the potential for high-efficiency cogeneration and district heating and cooling on their territory and to conduct a cost-benefit analysis based on climate conditions, economic feasibility and technical suitability (with some exemptions). In the framework of the Energy Union package, the Commission launched an EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling (COM(2016) 0051) on 16 February 2016. The strategy includes plans to boost the energy efficiency of buildings, improve linkages between electricity systems and district heating systems, which will greatly increase the use of renewable energy, and encourage reuse of waste heat and cold generated by industry. Legislative provisions for this strategy are included in the ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ package.

c.Energy performance of buildings

Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings contains several provisions to improve the energy efficiency of both new and existing buildings. Key provisions of the directive include requirements with regard to:

  • the common general framework for a methodology for calculating the integrated energy performance of buildings and building units;
  • the application of minimum requirements to the energy performance of new buildings and new building units, establishing, for instance, that by 31 December 2020 all new buildings must be nearly zero-energy;
  • the application of minimum requirements to the energy performance of, in particular: existing buildings, building elements that are subject to major renovation, and technical building systems whenever they are installed, replaced or upgraded;
  • energy certification of buildings or building units, regular inspection of heating and air-conditioning systems in buildings and independent control systems for energy performance certificates and inspection reports.

On 30 November 2016, the Commission presented a proposal for a review of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive 2010/31/EU within a broader ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ (COM(2016) 0860) package that should help to deliver the EU 2030 energy and climate goals. In addition, a ‘Smart Finance for Smart Buildings’ (COM(2016) 0860 – Annex I) initiative was presented at the same time. It analyses how to stimulate public and private investment concerning the energy efficiency of buildings and is intended to send a signal of confidence to the market and encourage investors to engage with energy efficiency.

d.Energy efficiency of products

With regard to the energy efficiency of products, several measures have been introduced at EU level, including, inter alia, measures for the:

  • indication by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by energy-related products which have a significant direct or indirect impact on energy consumption, which is governed by Framework Directive 2010/30/EU. Specific directives and regulations set out requirements for various household appliances. The labelling of office equipment and the labelling of tyres are covered by separate regulations;
  • ecodesign requirements for energy-using products governed by Framework Directive 2009/125/EC, recasting Directive 2005/32/EC as amended by Directive 2008/28/EC). Implementing regulations cover a wide range of products, including heaters, vacuum cleaners, computers, air conditioners, dishwashers, lighting products, refrigerators and freezers, televisions and electric motors.

As part of the Energy Union strategy (COM(2015) 0080) announced in February 2015, the Commission proposed to review the above-mentioned energy efficiency directives for products. In March 2017, a provisional agreement between Parliament and the Council on a regulation setting a new framework for energy efficiency labelling was reached. The regulation will establish deadlines to replace the current A+, A++, A+++ classes with an A to G scale.

Role of the European Parliament

Parliament has continuously called for more ambitious energy efficiency targets and stricter regulations. In its resolution of 15 December 2010 on the revision of the Energy Efficiency Action Plan (P7_TA(2010)0485), Parliament made it clear that a binding target on energy efficiency of at least 20% by 2020 should be adopted.

In 2012, Parliament played a key role in the negotiation of the Energy Efficiency Directive (COD/2011/0172) and ensured that the requirements for national building renovation strategies and mandatory energy audits for large companies were kept in the final compromise agreed with the Council. It also succeeded in keeping an amendment calling for rules on demand response mechanisms, which allow energy consumers to adjust their energy use to supply conditions and thus reduce their energy bills.

In 2013 Parliament adopted a resolution on the implementation and impact of the energy efficiency measures under Cohesion Policy (P7_TA(2013)0345), welcoming new opportunities offered by the European Structural and Investment Funds, especially in the building sector. Parliament called for awareness-raising measures and information dissemination, and stressed the need for capacity-building and technical assistance in this area.

More recently, Parliament has repeatedly appealed to the Commission and the Member States, in its resolutions on ‘A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies’ (P7_TA(2014)0094), ‘The 2014 UN Climate Change Conference — COP 20 in Lima, Peru’ (P8_TA(2014)0063) and ‘Towards a new international climate agreement in Paris’ (P8_TA(2015)0359), to set a binding 40% target, with accompanying individual national targets. All three resolutions make clear that an ambitious energy efficiency target would bring jobs and savings, increase economic competiveness, boost innovation, reduce dependency on energy imports and increase energy security. Following the European Council’s adoption of a 27% target on 23 October 2014, Parliament, in its resolution of 15 December 2015, ‘Towards a European Energy Union’ (P8_TA(2015)0444), criticised this less ambitious 2030 target as ‘weak’ and reiterated its call for a 40% binding energy efficiency target.

On 23 June 2016, Parliament adopted a resolution on the implementation report on the Energy Efficiency Directive (P8_TA(2016)0293) and concluded that the existing directive, despite offering a framework for reducing the energy demand, had been poorly implemented. It called on the Member States to implement it rapidly and fully. In addition, it argued that a serious energy efficiency policy could enable the EU to reach its energy and climate goals in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement at the COP 21, and help it improve energy security by reducing dependence on external energy sources.

On 13 September 2016, Parliament adopted a resolution on an EU Strategy on Heating and Cooling (P8_TA(2016)0334), calling on the Commission to focus action on energy efficiency measures in buildings, especially in energy-poor households.

Dagmara Stoerring / Susanne Horl

06/2017