Energy efficiency

Briefing Published 29 Nov 2017 Last modified 24 Jun 2020
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EU indicator past trend

Selected objective to be met by 2020

Indicative outlook of the EU meeting the selected objective by 2020

Progress on energy efficiency in Europe

Green triangle: improving trend

Improve energy efficiency by 20 % (compared with a business-as-usual scenario) — Energy Efficiency Directive

Green circle: it is expected that the objective will be met by 2020

Primary energy consumption decreased between 2005 and 2015. However, energy consumption increased in 2015 compared with 2014 and preliminary estimates indicate that it will increase also in 2016. Greater efforts are needed to keep the EU on track to meet its energy efficiency target.

For further information on the scoreboard methodology please see Box I.3 in the EEA Environmental indicator report 2017


The Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) requires that the EU meet its energy efficiency target of reducing primary energy consumption by 20 % by 2020 (compared with a business-as-usual scenario). Energy consumption decreased over the 2005-2015 period examined. Together with progress in implementing energy efficiency policies, improvements in the efficiency of energy transformation, structural changes towards less energy intensive industries and the economic downturn of 2008 have contributed to this development. In 2015, primary energy consumption in the EU increased by 1.4 % compared with 2014 primarily due to a slightly colder winter and increased energy demand in the transport sector. In 2015, the EU was nevertheless still on track to reach the 2020 target when compared with the indicative linear trajectory between 2005 and 2020. The EEA preliminary estimates for 2016 indicate that the EU primary energy consumption increased by 1 % compared with 2015. This means that Member States need to step up their efforts to keep the EU on track towards the 2020 target.


Setting the scene

The 7th EAP requires that the EU meet its 2020 climate and energy targets (EU, 2013). This briefing addresses the issue of energy efficiency, with greenhouse gas emissions (AIRS_PO2.5, 2017) and renewables (AIRS_PO2.6, 2017) being considered in two other related briefings. Meeting the energy efficiency target requires a reduction in energy consumption. This should lead to a reduction in environmental pressures associated with the production and consumption of energy. It will also contribute to a reduction in dependence on energy imports and support the achievement of renewable energy and greenhouse gas targets. 

Policy targets and progress

The Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) (EU, 2012) includes the target that energy efficiency should increase by 20 % by 2020 compared with a business-as-usual scenario (EC, 2011)[1].

The EED translates this into two separate 2020 energy consumption reduction targets for the EU: a primary energy consumption of 1 483 Mtoe, representing a 13.4 % reduction compared with 2005 levels, and a final energy consumption of 1 086 Mtoe, representing an 8.8 % reduction compared with 2005 levels. Primary energy consumption covers the consumption of the energy sector itself, losses during the transformation and distribution of energy and final energy consumption. Final energy consumption covers the consumption of end users (e.g. households, industry, services, agriculture) once the energy has been delivered to them. This briefing focuses on the 2020 primary energy consumption target as primary energy consumption encompasses final energy consumption.

In 2015, primary energy consumption in the EU reached 1 530 Mtoe, an increase of 1.4 % compared with 2014, primarily on account of a slightly colder winter and increased energy demand in the transport sector. Despite this increase, the EU remained below the linear trajectory towards the 2020 target.

Figure 1. Primary and final energy consumption including targets for 2020 and 2030, EU

Data source: a: Eurostat.  Primary Energy Consumption (t2020_33) 
European Commission. Final energy consumption by sector   
European Commission.  Directive 2012/27/EU   
European Commission.Energy Efficiency - 2030 Targets   
European Environment Agency (EEA). Approximated primary energy consumption 
European Commission.  Indicative trajectories for the share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy, from national renewable energy action plans (NREAPs) 
European Environment Agency (EEA).  Approximated final energy consumption

Note: The Primary Energy Consumption (PEC) and Final Energy Consumption (FEC) numbers shown for 2020 and 2030 represent the EU targets compared with 2005.

The reduction in the EU primary energy consumption over the 2005-2015 period was mainly the result of improved efficiency in the conversion of primary energy sources (e.g. coal and gas) into final energy, changes in the fuel mix used to produce electricity and heat (higher penetration of renewable and gas energy) and decreases in final energy consumption.

In 2015, final energy consumption in the EU was 9 % lower than in 2005. The main drivers of this decrease were the implementation of energy efficiency policies, structural changes towards less energy-intensive industrial sectors and the 2008 economic downturn. The biggest contributors to the final energy consumption decrease were the industrial and household sectors that together are responsible for approximately 80 % of the decrease (Eurostat, 2017).

In the run-up to 2020, a number of policies and measures adopted at EU level are expected to contribute towards the 20 % reduction target, in addition to the EED.

These include:

  • The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EU, 2010a),[2]
  • Product regulations laying down minimum energy performance standards and requirements for energy labelling (the Ecodesign Directive (EU, 2009a) and the Labelling Directive (EU, 2010b),
  • CO2 performance standards for cars and vans (EU, 2009b, 2011),
  • Increased financing through EU structural and investment funds, Horizon 2020 and dedicated facilities, such as European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) and the European Energy Efficiency Fund,
  • The EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the Effort Sharing Decision for non-ETS sectors (EU, 2009c, 2009d). 


Almost half of the effort needed to reach the 2020 target at EU level should come from measures implemented under Article 7 of the EED, which require Member States to demand energy companies to achieve yearly energy savings of 1.5 % of annual sales to final consumers, either by setting up an energy efficiency obligation scheme or by adopting alternative measures[3]. A recent assessment (Ricardo Energy and Environment et al., 2016) suggests that despite the fact that 27 Member States intend to make use of the exemptions allowed under the EED, the sum of the reported estimated savings is 9 % higher than the Article 7 targets, opening the possibility that the notified targets are met with the currently-reported national measures.

The energy efficiency targets set under the EED should also help to keep the momentum towards increasing energy efficiency. Taken together, the sum of the 2020 national targets for primary energy consumption reported by Member States in 2017 amounted to 1 540 Mtoe, which is 4 % higher than the EU target (1 483 Mtoe) (EEA, 2017a).

However, in addition to the increase observed in the primary energy consumption in 2015 compared with the 2014 levels, EEA preliminary estimates indicate an increase in 2016 of 1 % compared with 2015 consumption levels (EEA, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c). More efforts are necessary to implement energy efficiency policies at the national level to ensure that the 2020 target is met (EEA, 2017a).

Country level information

Figure 2. Primary energy consumption and estimated targets for 2020, by country 

In 2015, 23 Member States reduced or limited their increase in primary energy consumption below the indicative linear trajectories drawn between 2005 levels and the 2020 targets. Five Member States (Bulgaria, Estonia, France, Germany and the Netherlands) had not achieved sufficient savings in primary energy consumption. According to preliminary EEA estimates, in 2016 three additional countries (Austria, Belgium and Cyprus) will have to reduce energy consumption rather fast in the coming years to reach their 2020 targets, while Estonia seems to have reduced primary energy consumption below the linear trajectory to 2020 (EEA, 2017a).

Outlook beyond 2020 

Continued improvements in energy efficiency will be needed well beyond 2020 if the 7th EAP's 2050 vision of Europe, in which 'low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use', is to be achieved. In October 2014, the European Council endorsed an indicative energy efficiency target of a reduction of at least 27 % by 2030, in comparison with the EC's 2007 PRIMES baseline scenario (EC, 2014). In November 2016 the European Commission proposed an amended energy efficiency directive that includes an EU binding target of 30 % by 2030 (EC, 2016a) as well as an amended directive on energy performance of buildings (EC, 2016b) that enables the adaptation of the building sector to smart technologies; a new finance initiative for smart buildings will be launched to support the process of modernisation of buildings.

About the indicator 

Improving energy efficiency means using less energy for the same output or producing more with the same energy input. The 2020 target for energy efficiency has been interpreted to mean reductions in primary and final energy consumption. The indicator tracks levels of primary and final energy consumption in million tonnes of oil equivalents. Primary energy in this context covers the consumption of the energy sector itself, losses during the transformation (for example, from oil or gas into electricity) and distribution of energy, and final consumption by end users. It excludes energy carriers used for non-energy purposes (such as petroleum used for producing plastics). Final energy consumption is the total energy consumed by end users, such as households, industry, services, agriculture and fisheries. It is the energy that reaches the final consumer's door and excludes the energy used by the energy sector itself and in deliveries to the transformation sector

Footnotes and references

[1] In 2016, the European Commission proposed a revised Energy Efficiency Directive (EC, 2016a) in order to align the energy efficiency targets with the EU 2030 climate and energy framework, to extend beyond 2020 the energy saving obligation and to improve metering and billing of energy consumption for heating and cooling consumers.

[2] The European Commission proposed in 2016 a revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EC, 2016b). The proposed directive encourages the use of ICT (Information and Communications Technology) and modern technologies, including building automation and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, to ensure buildings operate efficiently, streamline or delete provisions that did not deliver the expected output and strengthen the links between achieving higher renovation rates, funding and energy performance certificates as well as by reinforcing provisions on national long-term building renovation strategies, with a view to decarbonising the building stock by mid-century.

[3] Measures that can be counted under Article 7 as alternative measures include: energy or CO2 taxes, financial incentives that lead to an increased use of energy efficient technology, regulations or voluntary agreements that lead to the increased use of energy efficient technology, energy labelling schemes beyond those that are already mandatory under EU law, training and education, including energy advisory programmes.


EC, 2011, Commission staff working paper, Impact assessment accompanying the document 'Directive of the European Parliament and of the council on energy efficiency and amending and subsequently repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC', SEC(2011) 779 final. ( accessed 6 April 2017.

EC, 2014, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council 'Energy efficiency and its contribution to energy security and the 2030 Framework for climate and energy policy' (COM(2014) 520 final of 23 July 2014).

EC, 2016a, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency (COM(2016) 761 final of 30 November 2016).

EC, 2016b, Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings (COM(2016) 765 final of 30 November 2016).

EEA, 2017a, Trends and projections in Europe 2017 — Tracking progress towards Europe's climate and energy targets, EEA Report No 17/2017, European Environment Agency.

EEA, 2017b, forthcoming, 'Primary energy consumption by fuel (CSI 029/ENER 026)', European Environment Agency.

EEA, 2017c, forthcoming, 'Final energy consumption by sector (CSI 027/ENER 016)', European Environment Agency.

EU, 2009a, Directive 2009/125/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products (OJ L 285/10, 31.10.2009, p.10).

EU, 2009b, Regulation (EC) No 443/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 setting emission performance standards for new passenger cars as part of the Community's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles ( accessed 6 April 2017.

EU, 2009c, Directive 2009/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 2003/87/EC so as to improve and extend the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading scheme of the Community (OJ L 140/63, 5.6.2009).

EU, 2009d, Decision No 406/2009/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the effort of Member States to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Community's greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments up to 2020 (OJ L 140, 5.6.2009, p. 1 - 13).

EU, 2010a, Directive 2010/31/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the energy performance of buildings (OJ L 153, 18.6.2010, p. 13–35).

EU, 2010b, Directive 2010/30/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 on the indication by labelling and standard product information of the consumption of energy and other resources by energy-related products (OJ L 153, 18.6.2010, p. 1).

EU, 2011, Regulation (EU) No 510/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2011 setting emission performance standards for new light commercial vehicles as part of the Union's integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles ( accessed 6 April 2017.

EU, 2012, Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency, amending Directives 2009/125/EC and 2010/30/EU and repealing Directives 2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC (OJ L 315, 14.11.2012, p. 1–56).

EU, 2013, Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 'Living well, within the limits of our planet' Annexe A, Paragraph 43(a) (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 171–200).

Eurostat, 2017, ‘Final energy consumption by sector’ ( accessed 24 November 2017.

Ricardo-AEA, CE Delft and Regional Centre for Energy Policy Research, 2016, Study evaluating progress in the implementation of Article 7 of the Energy Efficiency Directive, accessed 19 May 2017. 


AIRS briefings

AIRS_PO2.5, 2017, Greenhouse gas emissions, European Environment Agency.

AIRS_PO2.6, 2017, Renewable energy, European Environment Agency.


Environmental indicator report 2017 – In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme, EEA report No21/2017, European Environment Agency


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