Energy Efficiency


Four-fifths of Europe’s energy comes from fossil fuels, the leading source of air pollution and carbon emissions. Europe now spends more than €570 billion each year to import oil, gas, and coal for energy, and this amount is expected to rise by 20% over the next two decades. Meanwhile, European electricity prices are among the world’s highest, and there are growing concerns about whether the transition to a low-carbon economy will be affordable for households and businesses.

Much of the energy we use today is wasted. We have the technologies and know-how to produce goods and services with less energy, and much of what we spend on imported fuel could be invested at home in improving the energy efficiency of buildings, industries, and transportation systems. Currently, however, a host of barriers discourage investments in energy-efficient technologies and services in spite of a good payback over time.

The Opportunity

The cheapest and cleanest way to meet Europe’s energy needs is by making our infrastructure and products more energy efficient. It would also improve industry productivity and help Europe maintain global leadership as a provider of energy efficiency products and services.

Success requires a three-pronged approach:

Ruling out the least efficient infrastructure, equipment, and processes by adopting, enforcing, and regularly updating energy efficiency standards and codes. Underpinning all the products, buildings, and services available on the market are a vast number of standards and regulations that manufacturers, building developers, and service providers must comply with to protect consumer health and safety.

Scaling up demand for energy-efficient products and services by putting in place systems that allow consumers to make informed choices, by reforming energy markets and incentives to value energy efficiency investments, and by addressing barriers to investment with innovative financing and delivery mechanisms.

Building pressure and confidence for greater political ambition on energy savings that translates into sufficient political will and public resources to ensure follow-through. A binding political commitment to an ambitious but cost-effective energy savings target would ensure support for a coherent set of policies, measures, and programmes across all sectors of the economy and drive significant investment in energy efficiency.

Our Strategy

The ECF’s Energy Efficiency Programme aims to ensure that policymakers see energy efficiency as a highly effective pathway to increase European competitiveness and energy supply independence while affordably reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and protecting human and environmental health. To that end, we focus on EU-wide adoption and implementation of a policy package that includes a binding target for energy efficiency plus specific policies and measures.

We work to strengthen the political influence of advocates for energy efficiency policies and support schemes by engaging and forming alliances with stakeholders representing consumers, professionals, technical experts, local authorities, and businesses across the supply chain. This includes ensuring that advocates are armed with credible research and analysis.

We promote the international exchange of policy experiences, innovations, and market trends to build policymaker confidence and speed learning and development within Europe and abroad. Our partners track implementation progress by governments and advise policymakers on design options. We are particularly interested in new approaches to financing and delivering energy efficiency improvement services to buildings and industries.

We support primarily activities in Brussels as the center of the EU’s policymaking process and in Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Poland as influential leaders in the European Council.

Focus Areas

In line with this strategy, we have four areas of focus:

Ensuring that energy efficiency is a political priority
In 2007, EU Member States set an objective to reduce Europe’s energy consumption by 20% in 2020, and the EU is now discussing 2030 targets for GHG reductions and for the share of renewable energy. We are working to support adoption of a specific 2030 target for energy savings so that efficiency is valued as a prerequisite to building an affordable renewable energy system, as a key to maintaining European competitiveness and reducing energy import dependency, and as the main contributor to GHG reduction. The Coalition for Energy Savings, which we co-founded, has helped to build awareness of the societal benefits of energy efficiency and advocate for greater political ambition.

Designing and implementing national energy efficiency policies and support schemes
Once an energy savings target is set, capturing the actual energy savings potential requires a complex package of sector-specific policies and support schemes. Starting in 2014, the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive requires Member States to reduce energy use by an additional 1.5 percent every year by obliging energy suppliers to deliver the savings or by establishing alternative programmes. Our partners track Member State progress and provide best-practice guidance on developing national legislation and programmes that comply with this directive; support coalitions advocating for robust implementation; and provide expert input into the design of effective regulations and support schemes. Our work in the UK on the Energy Bill Revolution campaign is a good example.

Developing roadmaps to improve the energy efficiency of buildings
All new buildings or buildings undergoing major renovation from 2021 onwards in Europe must consume very little energy or rely on renewable energy under the EU’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) – the most ambitious target for new buildings worldwide. The challenge will be to ensure that EU countries meet the mandate and prepare the buildings supply chain to step up to the challenge.

Adopting stricter standards and effective labels for appliances and equipment
All energy-using products made in or imported into the EU must meet minimum energy performance standards and product labels that encourage the production and purchase of more efficient models. The Ecodesign and Energy Labelling directives both established complex processes for designing and adopting new standards and labels. To counter industry efforts to weaken requirements and delay implementation, we support a network of technical experts and NGOs that monitor and participate in the regulatory process and arm policymakers with data and analyses to ensure adoption of the most ambitious, technically and economically feasible requirements. Our work in this arena has already led to notable successes, most recently on boilers and vacuum cleaners.

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