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Energy efficiency targets

The EU has set ambitious energy efficiency targets for 2020 and 2030 to reduce primary and final energy consumption as part of its 2050 decarbonisation objectives.

By using energy more efficiently, and thereby consuming less, Europeans can lower their energy bills, help protect the environment, mitigate climate change, improve their quality of life, reduce the EU's reliance on external suppliers of oil and gas and support the sustainable growth of the EU economy. To achieve these benefits, energy efficiency needs to be improved throughout the full energy chain, from production to final consumption.

The benefits of energy savings must outweigh the costs, such as those resulting from renovations. EU energy efficiency measures focus on the sectors with the greatest potential for energy savings, such as the building, industry, transport and energy supply sectors, or where a harmonised approach across EU countries is necessary, like for energy labelling.

The 2030 targets

In December 2018, the amended Energy Efficiency Directive ((EU) 2018/2002) entered into force, updating some specific provisions from the 2012 directive (27/2012/EU) and introducing various new elements. Above all, it established a headline EU energy efficiency target for 2030 of at least 32.5% (compared to projections of the expected energy use in 2030), with a clause for a possible upwards revision by 2023. The 32.5% target translates into a final energy consumption of 956 Mtoe and/or primary energy consumption of 1 273 Mtoe in the EU by 2030.

Under the Regulation on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action ((EU)2018/1999), each EU country is required to establish a 10-year integrated national energy and climate plan (NECP) for 2021-2030, outlining how it intends to contribute to the 2030 targets for energy efficiency, renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Proposed increase of the 2030 targets

To achieve the 2030 targets, far more efforts are needed to achieve a structural reduction in energy consumption and avoid possible rebound effects when moving out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In July 2021, the Commission adopted its proposal for a recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive as part of the European Green Deal package, which contains legislative proposals to meet the EU objective of at least 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The recast directive puts forward an increased and binding EU energy efficiency target of 9% in 2030 compared to the projections of the 2020 Reference Scenario (787 Mtoe in final and 1 023 Mtoe in primary energy consumption, respectively). This corresponds to a reduction of 36% for final energy consumption and 39% for primary energy consumption by 2030 compared to the 2007 Reference Scenario. National contributions to the common EU target would remain indicative but need to be based on a formula combining identified criteria reflecting national circumstances, such as energy intensity, gross domestic product per capita and energy savings potential, to complement the fixed rates of energy reduction. The proposal also provides enhanced ‘gap-filling mechanisms’ to be used in case EU countries fall behind in delivering on their national contributions towards the EU target.

In May 2022, in the context of the REPowerEU plan, the Commission proposed an increase to the binding EU energy efficiency target from 9% to 13% compared to the 2020 Reference Scenario (750 Mtoe in final and 980 Mtoe in primary energy consumption, respectively). The negotiations of the proposal are currently ongoing in the Council and the European Parliament through the ordinary legislative procedure. Once the legislative proposal is adopted by both colegislators, the new 2030 energy efficiency targets will apply.

The 2020 targets

In 2007, the EU leaders set the 3 key targets for 2020

  • 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels)
  • 20% of EU energy from renewables
  • 20% improvement in energy efficiency

Following a gradual decrease between 2007 and 2014, energy consumption increased between 2014 and 2017. This increase could partly be attributed to good economic performance since 2014, with low oil prices and colder winters. In 2018, this growing trend stabilised and primary energy consumption even declined compared to 2017.

The COVID-19 crisis significantly affected the EU economy and led to a decrease in energy consumption in 2020. According to the latest Eurostat data for 2020, the EU’s primary energy consumption dropped to 1 236 Mtoe, and final energy consumption to 907 Mtoe (which is respectively 5.8% and 5.4% below the EU 2020 target level).

In November 2022, the Commission published a report on the achievement of the 2020 energy efficiency targets that analyses the information provided by EU countries in their reports, and complements it with Eurostat data. Additionally, it analyses the assessment of the national long-term renovation strategies and the cost-optimal reports submitted by EU countries to the Commission. Largely due to the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic, both primary and final energy consumption targets were overachieved in 2020.