Energy saving: EU action to reduce energy consumption

Saving energy is key to fighting climate change and reducing the EU's energy dependency. Find out what MEPs are doing to reduce consumption.

A large circular power plant of solar panels in Spain
A large circular power plant of solar panels in Spain

Energy efficiency means using less energy to produce the same result. It enables saving energy and reducing emissions from power plants.

Laws on energy efficiency from 2018 have been revised to help the EU reach new ambitious climate goals set under the 2021 European Green Deal. They will also contribute to reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuel imports that come in large part from Russia, as set out in the RepowerEU plan.

The EU is working in parallel on rules to increase renewable energy.

New energy efficiency targets

Energy efficiency improvements could reduce not only CO2 emissions, but also the EU’s annual €330 billion bill for energy imports.

Targets adopted by the Parliament in July 2023 set a collective reduction in energy consumption of at least 11.7% at EU level by 2030 (compared to the projections of the 2020 reference scenario).

EU countries have to save on average 1.5% per year. Energy savings should start with 1.3% a year until the end of 2025, progressively reaching 1.9% by the end of 2030.

To reach these targets, local, regional and national measures will cover different sectors: public administration, buildings, businesses, data centres, etc. MEPs insisted on specific, attainable objectives:
• The public sector should reduce its final energy consumption by 1.9% each year
• EU countries should ensure at least 3% of public buildings are renovated each year into nearly-zero energy buildings or zero-emission buildings.
• There are new requirements for efficient district heating systems

A robust monitoring and enforcement mechanism will ensure EU countries meet their targets.

Reducing the energy consumption of buildings

Buildings in the EU are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions.

One important area for improvement is the heating and cooling of buildings and domestic hot water, which account for 80% of households' energy consumption.

In March 2024, Parliament adopted an update of the rules on the energy performance of buildings, which aim to create a climate neutral building sector by 2050.

All new buildings should produce zero emissions as of 2030; from 2028, that should be case for new buildings occupied or owned by public authorities.

EU countries will have to reduce the average annual consumption in their buildings sector by at least 16% by 2030 and by 20% to 22% by 2035.

Rules also foresee that stand-alone boilers based on fossil fuels cannot be subsidised as of 2025. However, hybrid systems that combine a boiler with another more eco-friendly solution such as a solar installation or a heat pump, can still receive financial support. All fossil fuel heating and cooling should be phased out by 2040.

Parliament is updating the rules on energy efficiency to ensure the EU meets its objective of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Renovating buildings in the EU

EU countries will need to renovate the 16% worst-performing non-residential buildings by 2030 and the worst-performing 26% of non-residential buildings by 2033.

The energy performance certificate of buildings should be valid for up to 10 years. For buildings with a certificate below level C, its owners should be invited to receive renovation advice.

The certificate should also include recommendations for the cost-effective improvement of the energy performance and the reduction of operational greenhouse gas emissions as well as for improvement of the indoor environmental quality of a building or building unit.

Buildings to produce their own solar energy

The updated rules on the energy performance of buildings encourage the progressive deployment of solar installations in public and non-residential buildings, where it is technically and economically possible. By 2030, all new residential buildings should have solar installations.

In November 2023, a revised version of the Renewable Directive entered into force making it mandatory for EU countries to ensure that permits to install solar energy equipment on buildings are delivered within one month.

Measures to help lower energy bills

Inefficient buildings are often linked to energy poverty and social problems. Vulnerable households tend to spend proportionally more on energy so are more exposed to increasing prices.

Renovations can help to reduce energy bills and contribute to lifting people out of energy poverty. As building work is expensive, Parliament wants to ensure that the impact of those costs is limited for vulnerable households.

Under the new rules on the energy performance of buildings, countries will have to provide access to funding for vulnerable households through their national renovation plans.

Several instruments should support these measures, including the Social Climate Fund, the RePowerEU package which aims to help the EU move away from its dependency on Russian fossil fuels, and the new platform for strategic technologies for Europe (STEP) which aims to support clean technologies.

Exempted buildings

EU countries can exclude from the scope of the energy performance rules specific types of buildings:

• buildings protected for their special architectural or historical merit
• agricultural and technical buildings
• churches
• temporary buildings
• buildings owned by the armed forces or central government and serving national defence purposes

Financing national efforts to tackle energy dependency

In February 2023, the RePowerEU legislation entered into force. It requires that countries receiving additional funds through updated recovery and resilience plans include measures to save energy, produce clean energy and diversify supplies.

The aim for these national recovery plans is to support independence from Russian fossil fuels and the green transition. Other measures foresee:
• investment to tackle energy poverty for vulnerable households, small and medium-sized companies and micro-enterprises
• more funds for cross-border and multi-country energy projects

Energy efficiency of home appliances

In 2017, Parliament approved simplified energy labels for home appliances, such as lamps, televisions and vacuum cleaners, to make it easier for consumer to compare their energy efficiency.

Revising the Energy Efficiency Directive

Revising the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive