To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the EU needs to boost its energy efficiency and reduce its energy consumption faster. That will allow to achieve reductions in greenhouse gases and pollutants, while relieving pressure on Europe’s energy supply and prices.

Our quality of life and the proper functioning of the economy depend on a reliable supply of energy at an affordable price. But energy production and consumption, especially our dependency on fossil fuels, put pressure on the environment and cause climate change.

Energy efficiency means using less energy for the same output or producing more with the same energy input, and minimising energy waste. Reducing energy consumption and energy waste across the energy system — from production to final consumption — in all economic sectors is one of the EU’s strategic objectives.

Energy efficiency measures have a great potential to avoid greenhouse gas emissions and to lower the demand and price of this valuable resource. It also improves the competitiveness of EU companies and contributes to reducing the EU’s dependency on imported energy sources.

The European Union is taking action to improve energy efficiency through a series of measures, including making buildings more energy efficient, better labelling of products, mobilising financing for energy efficiency investments and improving heating and cooling systems.

Energy efficiency is an equally important part of the EU's climate neutrality and transition to a clean energy system as renewable energy.

Overall, energy efficiency measures and a shift towards a more service-oriented economy, are driving a decline in energy consumption in industry. In buildings, energy efficiency improvements are outweighed by the increasing number of appliances and increased floor area. Overall, increasing energy consumption in the transport sector is slowing down progress toward energy efficiency goals.

  • After an extraordinary drop in energy consumption in Europe in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU’s final energy consumption (FEC) grew by 5% between 2020 and 2021. Despite this increase, the absolute FEC level reached in 2021 was still below pre-pandemic levels.
  • 23 Member States have decreased their FEC between 2005 and 2021, with Greece and Spain achieving the largest reductions. 26 Member States have decreased their primary energy consumption (PEC) during the same time period, with Greece again being the highest achiever, followed by Portugal.
  • To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the EU will need to reduce its primary and final energy consumption faster than it has since 2005.

In 2021, the European Commission proposed a revision of its main energy directives to reflect the EU’s increased climate ambitions, as set out in the European Green Deal.

In 2022, the Commission proposed to raise these ambitions as part of the REPowerEU plan to address global energy market disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. REPowerEU is a plan for saving energy, producing clean energy, and diversifying our energy supplies. The REPowerEU proposal calls for an increase of the binding energy efficiency target for 2030 from 9% to 13% compared to the 2020 reference scenario.

Achieving the current 2030 target will require continuous intensive reductions in energy consumption and substantial investments in various sectors.

Renovating Europe’s buildings is a key component of energy efficiency efforts and the EU Strategy ‘A Renovation Wave for Europe’ identified three focus areas:

  • Tackling energy poverty and worst-performing buildings;
  • Public buildings and social infrastructure, and;
  • Decarbonising heating and cooling.

The EEA regularly monitors progress in Europe’s energy efficiency and highlights emerging issues in its assessments.

Europe's heatwaves: How to keep buildings cool sustainably?

Europe’s temperatures are rising more than twice as fast as the global average with more and more extreme heatwaves being recorded. The demand for sustainable cooling in buildings is increasing and, there is a need for buildings that are energy efficient, use passive cooling solutions and can protect people from heatwaves and contribute to human health and well-being.

Key elements of a sustainable cooling strategy include tailoring to local contexts, promoting urban cooling solutions, prioritising investment in passive cooling techniques, using active cooling systems rationally and moderately, and developing low-energy cooling systems that are suited to future warmer climates.

Explore further

Energy-efficient buildings and climate change

Historical greenhouse gas emissions from the EU buildings sector show a decreasing trend since 2005. This is the result of the implementation of higher standards for new buildings, measures to increase energy efficiency in existing buildings (e.g. through changing of heating systems, thermal insulation and more efficient heating systems), measures to decarbonise the electricity sector but also warmer temperatures.

These reductions were partially offset by the increase in dwellings and by a larger average floor area in buildings. The trend in reducing emissions is expected to continue in the future, but a very strong increase in the renovation rate is needed to meet the overall EU 2030 emissions target.

Curious about how much energy is consumed and saved in the EU and in your country?

More information