Energy efficiency measures aim to achieve a sustainable energy supply, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve security of supply, lower import bills, and promote European competitiveness. In 2023, the co-legislators decided to decrease EU final energy consumption by at least 11.7% by 2030, compared to projections made in 2020.

Legal basis

Article 194 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.


A. The Energy Efficiency Directive

1. The Energy Efficiency Directive: towards 2020

The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) established the first binding EU energy efficiency targets. These targets aimed to reduce primary and final energy consumption at EU level by 20% by 2020, compared with forecasts made in 2007. Concretely, this meant the consumption of no more than 1 474 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) for primary energy and 1 078 for final energy.

The directive required EU countries to set indicative national targets for both primary energy, utilised by the energy sector for transformation and delivery, and final energy, directly consumed by end-users. It introduced measures to facilitate the achievement of these targets, and established legally binding rules for both end-users and energy suppliers. Moreover, EU countries were mandated to publish three-year national energy efficiency action plans.

2. The revised Energy Efficiency Directive: towards 2030

The new Energy Efficiency Directive ((EU) 2023/1791), which came into effect in October 2023, raises the EU’s energy efficiency targets. These new targets aim to reduce primary and final energy consumption at EU level by 11.7% by 2030, compared with forecasts made in 2020. In absolute terms, the EU’s primary and final energy consumption by 2030 will be no more than 992.5 and 763 Mtoe respectively.

While the final energy consumption target is collectively binding for EU countries, the primary energy consumption target is only indicative in the new revision of the directive. The directive requires EU countries to set indicative national energy efficiency targets based on final energy consumption contributions to meet the Union’s target. It defines new annual energy savings obligations for EU countries, starting with at least 0.8% of final energy consumption until 2023 and increasing to 1.3% from 2024, 1.5% from 2026, and 1.9% from 2028. In accordance with the directive, the Commission evaluates current energy efficiency partnerships and suggests new ones for specific sectors at EU level if necessary.

The directive introduces the obligation for the public sector to play an exemplary role: EU’s public bodies must reduce their combined total final energy consumption by at least 1.9% each year compared with 2021 and renovate at least 3% of the total floor area of their heated and/or cooled buildings annually. It revises the definition of efficient district heating systems and sets new requirements aimed at fully decarbonising the supply for these systems by 2050.

Finally, the directive establishes reporting obligations for data centres, dedicated one-stop shops for small and medium-sized enterprises, households and public bodies, and obligations for heating and cooling planning in municipalities with a population of more than 45 000. It includes consumer protection provisions, defines energy poverty at EU level and introduces measures for its reduction.

The revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive was the result of four different phases:

  • In 2018, the ‘clean energy for all Europeans’ package decreased the EU’s primary and final energy consumption by 32.5% by 2030, compared to projections made in 2007.
  • In 2021, the ‘Fit for 55’ package proposed to increase the EU energy efficiency target to at least 9% by 2030, compared to projections for 2030 made in 2020. The revision introduced the energy efficiency first principle as a pillar of the Energy Union.
  • In 2022, following the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the REPowerEU plan proposed to further increase the binding energy efficiency target to 13% by 2030 and introduced demand reduction targets in the internal energy market (2.1.9).
  • In 2023, Parliament and Council agreed to an energy efficiency target of 11.7% by 2030.

Under the Governance Regulation ((EU) 2018/1999), EU countries must establish 10-year national energy and climate plans (NECPs) for the 2021-2030 period and submit progress reports every two years. The Commission monitors and assesses progress reports, and can take measures at EU level to ensure their consistency with the overall EU targets.

B. General framework

1. Energy performance of buildings

a. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (2010/31/EU) aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption in the EU building sector, making it climate neutral by 2050, renovate the worst performing buildings and improve information sharing on energy performance. Its revision was finally agreed in March 2024.

The new directive sets emission reduction targets for buildings at both EU and national levels:

  • All new EU buildings will have to be zero-emission as of 2030; in case of new public buildings (owned or occupied) as of 2028.
  • For non-residential buildings, EU countries will define minimum energy performance standards to renovate 16% of the worst-performing building stock by 2030 and 26% by 2033.
  • For residential buildings, EU countries will ensure a trajectory for the progressive renovation of their entire building stock, decreasing its average primary energy use of at least 16% by 2030 and in a range between 20-22% by 2035.

The directive defines the concepts of ‘zero-emission building’, ‘nearly-zero energy building’ and ‘deep renovation’ and replaces long-term renovation strategies with national building renovation plans, which are more operational and subject to better monitoring.

The directive asks EU countries to deploy solar installations progressively in public and non-residential buildings, depending on their size, and in all new residential buildings by 2030, if technically and economically suitable.

It stops subsidising stand-alone fossil fuel boilers as of 2025, requires EU countries to set up technical assistance facilities, defines exceptions for agricultural and heritage buildings, and exception options for buildings of special architectural or historical merit, temporary buildings, churches and places of worship.

b. The renovation wave strategy

In October 2020, the Commission published the renovation wave strategy to boost renovation, aiming to at least double renovation rates over the next 10 years and make sure that renovations lead to greater energy and resource efficiency.

2. Cogeneration of heat and power

Cogeneration is the simultaneous production of electricity and useful heat. In line with the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Commission may require EU countries to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the potential for efficient heating and cooling, including the assessment of the potential for cogeneration.

3. Energy efficiency of products

The EU introduced several measures concerning the energy efficiency of products, including ecodesign requirements for energy-related products (Directive 2009/125/EC) and a framework for energy labelling (Regulation (EU) 2017/1369).

The new framework for labelling the energy efficiency of products eliminates A+, A++ or A+++ ratings and returns to a simpler A-G scale.

Role of the European Parliament

Parliament has continuously called for ambitious energy efficiency targets and stricter regulations.

On 17 January 2018, Parliament adopted first reading amendments calling for a minimum 35% target on energy efficiency in the EU by 2030, higher than the 30% proposed by the Commission.

On 15 January 2020, Parliament adopted a resolution on the European Green Deal calling for the Energy Efficiency Directive and Energy Efficiency of Buildings Directive to be revised in line with the EU’s increased climate ambition. On 17 September 2020, it adopted a resolution in favour of maximising the energy efficiency potential of the EU building stock, calling on the Commission to develop consistent measures to stimulate faster and deeper renovation of buildings. 

On 14 September 2022, Parliament adopted an amendment raising the EU energy efficiency target proposed by the Commission as part of its REPowerEU plan to at least 14.5% of final energy consumption by 2030, compared to 2020 projections. This is equivalent to final and primary energy consumption limits of 740 Mtoe and 960 Mtoe respectively.

On 14 March 2023, Parliament defined its first reading position on the need for residential buildings to achieve minimum energy performance standards at EU level (class E by 2030, and D by 2033) and on support measures against energy poverty. Non-residential and public buildings would have to achieve the same classes by 2027 and 2030 respectively. A limited set of exemptions would apply for special buildings (monuments, technical buildings, temporary use of buildings or churches, places of worship, etc.) and for public social housing, where renovations would lead to rent increases that cannot be compensated by saving on energy bills. Targeted grants and subsidies should be made available to vulnerable households.

For more information on this topic, please see the website of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.


Matteo Ciucci