The EU could reach its goal of making energy savings of 20% by 2020 simply by realising all cost-effective energy saving measures, according to a study commissioned by the European Climate Foundation and the Regulatory Assistance Project.
This would save European consumers €78 billion a year by 2020, cutting an average EU household's energy bill by €380 in 2020, estimated consultants Ecofys and the Fraunhofer ISI, who compiled the report.
In reality, however, EU policies are currently only delivering a third of the potential energy-saving measures, like insulating buildings or using electric motors in industrial installations, they said.
Meeting the target would require the bloc to save around 394 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2020. The recession has reduced consumption by 70 Mtoe and new policies are expected to cut it further by 115 Mtoe, leaving the EU with a savings gap of 208 Mtoe by 2020, according to the report.
The EU will ultimately struggle to meet its other 2020 goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the share of renewables in its energy without realising its energy savings potential, the climate groups warned.
The Climate Foundation's 'Roadmap 2050' report in April concluded that energy-saving measures will be crucial to cutting emissions by more than 80% by 2050 in line with the bloc's long-term objective (EurActiv 14/04/10).
A key solution for ramping up energy savings would be to introduce a binding energy-savings target for end-use sectors in each member state, the report suggests. Such a target would not only serve to guarantee the ambitious implementation of existing EU energy efficiency policies, but strengthen national policies as well, it said.
Unlike the greenhouse gas reduction and renewables targets, which are sealed into EU law, energy efficiency is not a binding obligation on member states. The climate groups pointed to the weak implementation of the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive, which set energy saving targets up to 2016, calling for high-level political commitment to targets.
The report comes ahead of the revision of the EU's Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which the European Commission is preparing to release this year (EurActiv 09/09/10).
Much of the debate surrounding the action plan has concentrated on whether the EU should make its 2020 goal legally binding on member states. But while many MEPs have thrown their weight behind a binding target, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has indicated that he will assess in 2012 whether such measures are needed.
The report warned of the scale of the challenge. "Energy-saving measures are diverse and spread across all sectors, and will have to be implemented quickly enough to deliver their potential on time," it said.