Energy Efficiency Directive: Completing an energy policy puzzle


The European Union put down the last piece of the bloc's 2020 climate and energy policy puzzle by adopting an Energy Efficiency Directive. The directive is a game-changer for energy companies, which are now required to achieve 1.5% energy savings every year among their final clients. The EU law is also expected to trigger the largest revamp of Europe's existing building stock to date and set new standards for public procurement and energy audits.

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The Energy Efficiency Directive, agreed in October 2012, came as a belated followup to the EU's climate and energy package of legislation, which included legally-binding targets on renewables and CO2 emissions reduction for 2020.

The package, finalised in 2008, also included an objective to reduce energy consumption by 20% by the same date.

But, unlike the first two, the efficiency target was not translated into binding legislation, leading to slippage in meeting the objective.

The Energy Efficiency Directive aims to bridge this gap. It does not introduce binding targets at national level, but "binding measures" such as an obligation to renovate public buildings and other initiatives.

Key measures:

  • Energy companies are requested to reduce energy sales by 1.5% every year among their customers. This can be achieved via improved heating systems, fitting double-glazed windows or insulating roofs.
  • The public sector is required to renovate 3% of buildings "owned and occupied" by the central government in each country. Buildings need to have a useful area larger than 500 m2 in order to be covered by this requirement (lowered to 250 m2 as of July 2015).
  • EU countries are requested to draw up a roadmap to make the entire buildings sector more energy efficient by 2050 (commercial, public and private households included).
  • Energy audits and management plans are required for large companies, with cost-benefit analyses for the deployment of combined heat and power generation (CHP) and public procurement.

Each country has to present national indicative targets by April 2013. If the European Commission estimates that those are insufficient to meet the EU's overall 2020 goal, then it can request member states to re-assess their plans.

In the first semester of 2014, the Commission will review the progress towards the 20% energy-efficiency target, report on it and assess whether further measures are needed.

If Europe is off track, the Commission said it intends to come back with a proposal for further legislation.