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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.

By using energy more efficiently and thereby consuming less, Europeans can lower their energy bills, help protect the environment, mitigate climate change, improve their life quality and reduce the EU's reliance on external suppliers of oil and gas.

To achieve these benefits, we need to improve energy efficiency throughout the full energy chain, from production to final consumption.

At the same time, the benefits of energy savings must outweigh the costs, for instance those that result from carrying out renovations. EU measures therefore focus on sectors where the potential for savings is the greatest, such as buildings, or where a harmonised approach across EU countries is necessary, like 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 previous directive and introducing several new elements. Above all, it establishes 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 for 2030 translates into final energy consumption of 956 Mtoe and/or primary energy consumption of 1,273 Mtoe in the EU-28 in 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, for renewable energy and for greenhouse gas emissions.

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

The 20% energy efficiency target was enacted with the adoption of the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU in 2012. In concrete terms, this meant lowering the EU’s final energy consumption to no more than 1,086 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) and primary energy consumption to no more than 1,483 Mtoe. This is roughly equivalent to turning off 400 power stations. To achieve this target, EU countries were required to set their own indicative national energy efficiency targets and publish 3-year national energy efficiency action plans (NEEAPs) and annual progress reports.

To reach the EU's 20% energy efficiency target by 2020, every EU country set its own indicative national energy efficiency targets, based on primary or final energy consumption, primary or final energy savings, or energy intensity.

Progress towards the 2020 target

Following a gradual decrease between 2007 and 2014, energy consumption increased between 2014 and 2017. The increase could partly be attributed to good economic performance since 2014 with low oil prices and colder winters. In 2018, this growing trend was moderated and primary energy consumption even declined compared to 2017. Data from Eurostat (January 2020) shows that the primary energy consumption was 5.8% above the 2020 targets in 2018, whereas the final energy consumption was 3.5% above those targets.

The energy consumption trend since 2014 was pointing towards not reaching the EU 2020 targets for both primary and final energy consumption. The COVID crisis significantly hampered the economy and decreased the energy consumption in 2020. However, unless the European economy will become more energy efficient, the subsequent recovery will lead to a rebound in energy consumption.

Task force on mobilising efforts to reach the 2020 targets

The Commission established a task force with EU countries to discuss with stakeholders the reasons for the increase in energy consumption in 2014 and 2017 and potential measures to address the problem. The taskforce held meetings in 2018 and 2019, and in a report they summarised their work on mobilising efforts to reach the 2020 energy efficiency target.