With strong prices at all times, and Russia’s war against Ukraine contributing to market uncertainty, EU countries are taking action to ease the situation for citizens and businesses. Financial support to those affected can make a difference in the short term, but support mechanisms must be supported by demand reduction and effective measures for lasting results. Better managing the demand side by using energy in a more conscious and ‘smart’ way also contributes to reducing our energy consumption and debt.
The EU has a set of instruments to support energy efficiency, covering the equipment we use in the buildings we live and work in. Broadly defined as ‘using less energy to do the same work or produce the same result’, energy. efficiency is at the heart of EU energy policy. Especially in the current geopolitical and energy market conditions, energy infrastructure measures are one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to permanently reduce the overall energy consumption of the EU, strengthening energy security and its energy system.
Coordinated efforts at the local, national and EU level and the active participation of citizens are needed to ensure the rapid and effective delivery of energy efficiency measures, which are often combined with energy saving practices to maximize their beneficial impact.
A framework for energy efficiency
Over the past two decades, the EU has developed a comprehensive regulatory framework that sets energy efficiency requirements across a range of sectors through the Energy Performance Directive, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the Ecodesign Directive and Energy Load Management, as well. as the second law is related. Under the Energy Efficiency DirectiveEU countries must put in place measures to achieve national energy consumption targets, which contribute to the overall EU energy performance target (currently set at 32.5% by 2030).
In 2021, the Commission proposed a reform of the Energy Efficiency Directive to comply with the EU’s new climate ambition of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and becoming climate neutral by 2050. The proposal includes a target energy increase of 9% by 2030 (compared to the reference scenario of 2020), which has increased to 13% in the REPowerEU plan, which was published in May 2022. It also highlights the role of ‘energy efficiency first’ Law- basis in the transition from a fossil-based model of energy production and consumption to a more flexible system that integrates renewable technologies and focuses on the energy users involved.
Promoting energy efficiency in buildings
Buildings are responsible for around 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption and 36% of direct and indirect electricity-related greenhouse gas emissions. Addressing energy efficiency and the release of renewable energy in buildings will not only increase their energy efficiency, but can contribute to addressing energy poverty and reducing energy costs for residents (according to Eurostat statistics, heating alone accounts for 62.8% of the final energy consumption of EU households in 2020 ).
I Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD), which came into force in 2010, sets mandatory energy performance standards for all new buildings and major renovations of existing ones. Following the introduction of energy efficiency rules in national building codes, EU buildings use only half today compared to conventional buildings from the 1980s. In 2021, the Commission proposed a revision of the delivery order for 2030 and 2050 energy efficiency and decarbonisation objectives. This reform includes measures to further improve the EU’s building stock and increase the rate of renovation, especially in the most efficient buildings, as well as the requirement for all new buildings (from 1 January 2030) to be zero-emission buildings, marked. with high energy efficiency and very low energy requirements, which should be fully covered by energy from renewable sources.
The revised EPBD proposal includes commitments to solar energy in buildings, generated by the REPowerEU plan, adopted in May 2022. Accordingly, the design of new buildings will increase their solar energy production capacity, and solar installations will be deployed in new and existing ones. Commercial buildings and public buildings over a certain size by 2027, and later on all new residential buildings by 2029. The EU Solar Energy Strategy, and in particular the Solar Rooftops Initiative, will also contribute to increasing the energy efficiency of the EU’s building stock.
Energy efficiency in business
National and EU policies for energy efficiency and technological development have contributed to a significant reduction in energy consumption in EU industry (in 2019, energy consumption in EU industry was about 13% lower than in 2000). Energy efficiency measures are often necessary to further support decarbonisation efforts and reduce energy consumption, especially in energy-intensive industries, such as iron and steel, refineries, cement and petrochemicals.
An energy audit is an important tool for companies to manage their energy use. By getting a detailed description of their energy consumption and recommendations on how to reduce it, companies can invest in cost-effective measures that often have a payback period of less than 3 years.
Driving energy efficient products and systems for citizens and businesses
The EU’s ecodesign and energy labeling rules have been the main driver for increasing the number of energy-efficient products on the EU market. They also contribute significantly to reducing EU energy demand while keeping costs down for consumers. It is estimated that these regulations will deliver energy savings of approximately 230 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2030 and average customer savings of up to €285 per year on household electricity bills.
I EU energy label in particular it has become a point of reference to help consumers choose between energy efficient products. It is approved by 93% of consumers and influences 79% of their purchasing decisions when purchasing energy efficient products.
Manufacturers must register all products covered by the energy labeling rules in the European Product Registry for Energy Efficiency (EPREL). Citizens, businesses and public authorities can consult EPREL to obtain information and compare energy efficiency and other information about a wide range of products.
Unlocking funding and capacity building
Energy efficient investment in buildings, industry, combined heat and power and lighting can contribute significantly to meeting the EU’s climate and energy goals. The Commission’s multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2027 and the NextGenerationEU instrument will directly support energy efficiency investments in the EU through 3 different funds: the Recovery and Resilience Facility, Cohesion Policy funds and the Modernization Fund . Under the country’s plans for recovery and resilience, more than 67 billion euros have been put forward to support energy efficiency and renovation of buildings.
In cooperation with EU countries, the Commission continues to strengthen the work of the Group of Financial Institutions for Regional Efficiency (EEFIG) and examines additional ways to trigger additional private investment to support energy saving projects. Another important aspect of increasing investment in electricity is building the capacity of stakeholders throughout the value chain. EU funding programs, such as Horizon Europe, will continue to provide funding and support for research and innovation projects to promote industrial competitiveness and increase investment in key energy areas.
Energy conservation lowers bills and reduces exposure to supply shortages. Using less energy also facilitates storage needs and reduces the EU’s reliance on fossil fuels, contributing to support security of supply. When combined with energy efficiency measures, energy conservation through behavioral changes can help reduce in the short term around 13 billion cubic meters and 16 million tonnes of oil equivalent in EU gas and oil demand, respectively.
In cooperation with EU countries and international organizations, the Commission helps promote energy efficient practices and measures to help citizens and companies save energy. In addition to the “Toolbox for action and support” published in October 2021, the Commission published in May 2022 the EU ‘Save Energy’ plan as part of the REPowerEU plan. It lists medium- to long-term energy-saving measures in key sectors, such as households, services, transport and mobility, that EU countries can take to increase energy efficiency.
To support these efforts, the joint Commission-International Energy Agency campaign ‘Playing my part’ provides important steps individuals and companies can take to reduce their energy use. Recently, the Commission has also proposed new rules to help reduce consumer and business debt. Among other things, the proposal recommends that all EU countries reduce their overall electricity demand by 10% until the end of March 2023, especially during peak hours, when prices are high. Increasing productivity will be key to achieving these goals.