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Energy Efficiency

12 August 2009
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 02 February 2012

Reducing energy consumption and eliminating energy wastage are among the main goals of the European Union (EU). EU support for improving energy efficiency will prove decisive for competitiveness, security of supply and for meeting the commitments on climate change made under the Kyoto Protocol.


Energy Efficiency

The goal of a 20 per cent increase in energy efficiency by 2020 was first set forth in the 2005 Green Paper on Energy Efficiency. If the goal is met, it will save an estimated 100 billion euro per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 780 million tonnes. The European Commission’s Action Plan on Energy Efficiency stresses the need for “dynamic minimum energy efficiency requirements for energy-using equipment” and “energy-efficient and energy-saving behaviour of energy consumers” and “energy savings from buildings.”


Buildings account for up to 40 percent of EU energy requirements. The Green Paper on energy efficiency mentions buildings in Section 1.2.1, saying that implementation of energy efficiency rules could save up to 40 Mtoe (Megatons of oil equivalent) between 2006 and 2020. Lighting alone accounts for one-third of energy used in buildings, and heating and cooling has been called the “sleeping giant” of renewable technologies.

Heating and cooling, including cogeneration, efficiency could save an estimated 5 of the 20 percent goal for energy efficiency by 2020. According to the RERM, most of the growth in H&C could come from “highly-efficient biomass-fired combined heat and power stations.” Cogeneration, or the use of the same fuel to both provide heat and generate power, is expected to double by 2010, saving an estimated 65 Mt of CO2 per year. The remainder could come from the implementation of geothermal and solar heating, following Swedish, German and Austrian examples of both technologies.

Lighting seems a small thing, but it has enormous potential to contribute to energy efficiency goals. Consider that lighting globally consumes more electricity than is produced by nuclear energy, period, and results in CO2 emissions equivalent to about 70 percent of the world’s cars. In March 2007, the European Council asked the EU Commission to propose measures on street and home lighting. In 2008 the Commission will propose measures for office and street lighting, and then measures on eliminating incandescent lighting from homes for 2009.

Other initiatives

End-use Efficiency & Energy Services was formally adopted in 2006, requiring a 1 percent yearly savings in energy efficiency in retail, electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, heating and transport fuels. The initiative runs from 2008-2017, and member states must submit national actions plans to the commission for approval periodically.

Electrical Devices and Appliances are made more energy efficient through the use of efficiency labelling and minimum efficiency requirements in the design of electrical products. The Energy Star Programme is a voluntary labelling programme for office equipment, raising consumer consciousness about the products they buy. Conversely, energy demands from households represent about 25 percent of energy requirements. Appliances are a large part of this, thus the EU has passed multiple directives covering all manner of electrical appliances including washing machines, dishwashers, ovens and air-conditioning. Similarly, directives on Eco-Design of Energy Using products establish minimum efficiency requirements for all electrical devices.

Communication "Energy Efficiency Plan 2011"