Energy efficiency action plan

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Europe has embarked on an ambitious plan to cut its energy consumption by 20% by 2020 in a bid to reduce its dependency on imported oil and gas and slash its energy bill by an estimated 100 billion euro every year. If it delivers, the plan would also prevent 780 million tonnes of CO2 from being emitted in the atmosphere, or twice the amount the EU agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol.

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Overview

The EU has already adopted a series of measures to increase energy savings:

  • 2002: directive on the energy performance of buildings;
  • 2004: directive promoting the combined generation of heat and electricity;
  • 2005Eco-design directive to increase energy savings from domestic appliances (fridges, hairdryers, etc.);
  • 2006: directive on energy end-use efficiency and energy services applies to supply and distribution of electricity, gas, heating and fuels to households, transport and industrial consumers;
  • other EU measures include: energy-efficiency requirements for boilers and refrigerators; labelling requirements for ovens, refrigerators, air-conditioners; Labelling for office equipment (Energy Star); Directive on taxation of energy products and electricity.

However, rising oil, gas and electricity prices gave EU governments and the Commission a new sense of urgency to do more on energy savings.

The Commission opened a wide-ranging debate in June 2005 with a Green Paper on Energy Efficiency. The paper placed energy savings at the centre of the EU's ambitions to boost competitiveness and jobs - the Lisbon strategy -, saying it could:

  • save at least 20% of its present energy consumption by 2020, or the equivalent of €60 billion a year;
  • contribute to reducing Europe's dependence on oil and gas imports as prices of fossil fuels continued to surge;
  • be the quickest and most cost-effective manner to reduce greenhouse gases emissions and help the EU meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

According to the Commission, half of the savings mentioned in the paper could be met by simply improving the enforcement of existing legislation. The remaining 10% would need to come from innovative solutions, it said.

EU member states endorsed the Commission's proposals at their March 2006 summit and urged the Commission to follow-up with an action plan that is at the same time ambitious and realistic.

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