Energy efficiency

Briefing Published 29 Nov 2018 Last modified 14 Dec 2018
11 min read
Topics: ,
Energy efficiency

Indicator

EU indicator past trend

Selected objective to be met by 2020

Indicative outlook for 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 in 2016 was lower than in 2005. However, energy consumption increased both in 2015 and in 2016, and according to preliminary estimates also in 2017. It is uncertain that the EU will meet its energy efficiency target.

For further information on the scoreboard methodology please see Box I.3 in the EEA Environmental indicator report 2018

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). Primary energy consumption decreased over the 2005-2016 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. However, the EU primary energy consumption increased both in 2015 and in 2016. This was mainly because of increased activity levels, lifestyle changes and slightly colder winters compared with the previous years. Preliminary results for 2017 indicate a further increase in primary energy consumption. These results also show that the level of primary energy consumption in 2017 was higher than that corresponding to the linear reduction trajectory for meeting the energy efficiency target by 2020. This makes the prospects of the EU meeting the energy efficiency target by 2020 uncertain. 

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, 2018) and renewable energy (AIRS_PO2.6, 2018) 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).

The EED translates this into two separate 2020 energy consumption reduction targets for the EU: a primary energy consumption of 1 483 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), representing a 13 % reduction compared with 2005 levels, and a final energy consumption of 1 086 Mtoe, representing a 9 % reduction compared with 2005 levels. Primary energy consumption covers the consumption of the energy sector itself, the losses during the transformation and distribution of energy as well as the final energy consumption. Final energy consumption covers consumption by 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 2016, primary energy consumption in the EU was 10 % lower than in 2005 (see figure 1). The reduction in the EU primary energy consumption over the 2005-2016 period was mainly the result of decreases in final energy consumption, changes in the fuel mix used to produce electricity and heat (higher penetration of renewable and gas energy) and improved efficiency in the conversion of primary energy sources (e.g. coal and gas) into final energy (EEA, 2018a, 2018b and 2018c).

In 2016, final energy consumption in the EU was 7 % lower than in 2005 (see figure 1). The main drivers of the decrease over the 2005-2016 period were the implementation of energy efficiency policies, structural changes towards less energy-intensive industrial sectors and the 2008 economic downturn (EEA, 2018a). The biggest contributors to the final energy consumption decrease were the industrial and household sectors that together were responsible for approximately 90 % of the decrease (EEA, 2018c).

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

Data source: 
a: Eurostat. Simplified energy balances - annual data (nrg_100a) 
b: Eurostat Complete energy balances - annual data (nrg_110a) 
c: European Commission. Directive 2012/27/EU
d: European CommissionEnergy Efficiency Directive

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

In addition to the EED, there are several other EU policies and measures that have contributed towards the 20 % reduction target and will continue to do so.

These include:

  • The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EU, 2018);
  • Product regulations laying down minimum energy performance standards and requirements for energy labelling (the Ecodesign Directive (EU, 2009a) and the Labelling Directive (EU, 2017);
  • CO2 performance standards for cars and vans (EU, 2009b and 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). 

Nevertheless, the EU primary energy consumption increased both in 2015 (by 1.5 %) and in 2016 (by 0.7 %) year-on-year. The increase took place despite energy efficiency improvements, mainly because of increased economic activity levels (Odyssee-Mure, 2018) most likely driven by the high economic growth over this period (AIRS_PO2.1, 2018). In the household sector, more appliances and dwellings, and changes in heating behaviour contributed to the increase in energy consumption (Odyssee-Mure, 2018). Finally, the winters of 2015 and 2016 were slightly colder compared with those of 2014 and 2015, respectively (EEA, 2018d), which also increased energy consumption (Odyssee-Mure, 2018). It should be noted however that the winter temperatures in 2015 and 2016 were above the average winter temperature of the 2005-2016 period (EEA, 2018d). Overall, all sectors increased their energy consumption in 2015 and 2016. However, more than 80 % of the increase in primary energy consumption over these 2 years was because of the increases in the household and in the transport sectors (Eurostat, 2018).

Preliminary results show a further increase in primary energy consumption of circa 1.4 % in 2017 compared with 2016. The increase may have been driven by increases in activity levels triggered by higher economic growth in 2017 compared with 2016 (AIRS_ PO2.1, 2018) and by a slightly colder winter in 2017 compared with 2016 (EEA, 2018d). In any event, the EU’s primary energy consumption in 2017 was above the pathway of the linear reduction over the 2005-2020 period corresponding to the EU meeting its energy efficiency target by 2020 (see figure 1). This makes the prospects of meeting the EU energy efficiency target by 2020 uncertain and points to the need to implement further energy efficiency policies at the national level.

The EED is currently in the final stages of being updated and a political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council was reached in June 2018, whereby the updated Directive will require the EU to meet a more ambitious energy efficiency target of at least 32.5 % by 2030 (EC, 2018) in addition to the existing 2020 energy efficiency targets. This may help to keep the momentum towards increasing energy efficiency.

Country level information

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

 

In 2016, 18 Member States were considered to be on track towards meeting their 2020 energy efficiency targets as they reduced or limited their increase in primary energy consumption to a level below their linear trajectories drawn between their 2005 primary energy consumption levels and their 2020 energy efficiency targets. Ten Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden) had not achieved in 2016 sufficient savings in primary energy consumption to stay below their linear trajectory levels – five more than in 2015 (EEA, 2018a).

In 2017, according to EEA preliminary estimates, three additional countries (Estonia, Hungary and Portugal) can be expected to rise above their linear trajectory thresholds (EEA, 2018a).

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. As already mentioned, within the context of updating the Energy Efficiency Directive a political agreement was reached whereby the EU should meet an energy efficiency target of at least 32.5 % by 2030; the updated Directive (EC, 2016a) is expected to be adopted in the coming months. Buildings are responsible for circa 40 % of the EU’s final energy consumption. An update of the Directive on the energy performance of buildings, adopted in May 2018 (EU, 2018), will enable the adaptation of the building sector to smart technologies. Finally, a new finance initiative for smart buildings was launched by the European Commission in November 2016 (EC, 2016) to support the process of modernisation of buildings over the 2021-2030 period. These recent policy developments aim to accelerate the pace of energy efficiency improvements.

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

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, (https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/sec_2011_0779_impact_assessment.pdf) accessed 21 March 2018.

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, ‘ANNEX. Accelerating clean energy in buildings’ to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Investment Bank. Clean Energy For All Europeans’, (COM(2016) 860 final annex 1 of 30 November 2016).

EC, 2018, ‘Energy efficiency first: Commission welcomes agreement on energy efficiency’, European Commission – Statement, Brussels, 19 June 2018 (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_STATEMENT-18-3997_en.htm) accessed 24 August 2018.

EEA, 2018a, Trends and projections in Europe 2018 — Tracking progress towards Europe's climate and energy targets, EEA Report No 16/2018, European Environment Agency.

EEA, 2018b, forthcoming, 'Primary energy consumption by fuel (CSI 029/ENER 026)', European Environment Agency (https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/primary-energy-consumption-by-fuel-6/assessment-1) accessed 19 November 2018.

EEA, 2018c, forthcoming, 'Final energy consumption by sector (CSI 027/ENER 016)', European Environment Agency (https://www.google.com/search?q='Final+energy+consumption+by+sector&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:da-DK:IE-Address&ie=&oe=&gws_rd=ssl) accessed 19 November 2018.

EEA, 2018d, 'Global and European temperature (CSI 012)', European Environment Agency (https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/global-and-european-temperature-8/assessment) accessed 29 August 2018.

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 (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/ALL/?uri=CELEX:32009R0443) accessed 21 March 2018.

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, 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 (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:145:0001:0018:en:PDF) accessed 21 March 2018.

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' Annex, Paragraph 43(a) (OJ L 354, 28.12.2013, p. 171–200).

EU, 2017, Directive 2017/1369/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2017 setting a framework for energy labelling and repealing Directive 2010/30/EU (OJ L 198, 28.7.2017, p. 1–23).

EU, 2018, Directive 2018/844/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency (OJ L 156/75, 19.6.2018, p. 75–91).

Eurostat, 2018, ‘Complete energy balances – annual data – nrg_110a)’ (http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/submitViewTableAction.do) accessed 5 September 2018.

Odyssee-Mure, 2018, 'Decomposition tool' (http://www.indicators.odyssee-mure.eu/) accessed 14 February 2018.

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 21 March 2018. 

 

AIRS briefings

AIRS_ PO2.1, 2018, Resource efficiency, European Environment Agency.

AIRS_PO2.5, 2018, Greenhouse gas emissions, European Environment Agency.

AIRS_PO2.6, 2018, Renewable energy, European Environment Agency.

 

Environmental indicator report 2018 – In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme, EEA report No19/2018, European Environment Agency

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