6. Progress of the European Union towards its 2020 energy efficiency targets

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  • The EU is currently on track to meet its 20 % energy efficiency target for 2020. Recent statistics show, however, that energy consumption levels are increasing slightly. In 2015, the EU's primary energy consumption was 10.7 % below 2005, with an increase of 1.4 % compared with 2014. This increase in energy consumption means that Member States need to make greater efforts to keep the EU on track towards its 2020 target.
  • Preliminary estimates from the EEA indicate that primary energy consumption continued to increase in 2016, for the second consecutive year. In 2016, primary energy consumption was 0.6 % higher compared with 2015, and 10.2 % below the 2005 level. This corresponds to a level just above the linear trajectory to 2020 (0.1 %).
  • In 2015, final energy consumption in the EU was 9 % below the 2005 level and just below the level of its 2020 target, despite a 2 % increase compared with 2014. Preliminary estimates indicate that this increase continued in 2016. This resulted in final energy consumption being above the 2020 target, unlike the previous year.
  • To reach the EU's currently proposed 30 % energy efficiency target for 2030, primary energy consumption will require a total reduction of 23 % compared with 2005 levels. This will only be achieved if Member States step up their efforts to keep primary energy consumption in check.

6.1 Current progress in reducing energy consumption

The Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) defines the EU energy efficiency target for 2020, which can be expressed in terms of either primary energy consumption or final energy consumption (EU, 2012). Meeting both targets will require a reduction in primary and final energy consumption by 20 % compared with levels projected for 2020 in the European Commission's Energy Baseline Scenario (EC, 2008). EU legislation does not set any specific indicative trajectory to monitor the progress of the EU towards the 2020 target.

This analysis tracks progress towards the energy efficiency target by considering an indicative linear trajectory between primary energy consumption levels in 2005 and the 2020 target level, and by comparing the levels of primary energy consumption in the assessment year with this linear trajectory. The EU is considered to be on track towards meeting its 2020 target if its primary energy consumption is on or below its linear trajectory. Conversely, if the EU's primary energy consumption level is above the linear trajectory, it will need to reduce or limit its energy consumption at a faster pace to meet the 2020 objective.

The EU target can also be expressed in terms of final energy consumption. While the EEA's methodology to track progress focuses on primary energy consumption, developments concerning final energy consumption complement the analysis in relation to the 2020 target, but they do not count in the present assessment of progress. Further details on the methodology are described in Annex 3.

In 2015, the EU was on track to achieve its target of improving energy efficiency by 20 % by 2020. Recent statistics show, however, that both primary [1] and final [2] energy consumption levels have been increasing since 2014.  

According to preliminary estimates from the EEA, the EU's primary and final energy consumption increased again in 2016 (by 1.0 % and 1.8 %, respectively, compared with 2015) (EEA, 2017g; EEA, 2017h). This slight increase in energy consumption followed an observed modest boost in economic growth, while other factors may have also played a role, as discussed below.

The EU's 2020 target expressed in terms of primary energy consumption is equivalent to a 13.4 % reduction from 2005 levels. In 2015, the EU's primary energy consumption was 10.7 % lower than in 2005, decreasing at an annual average rate of 1.07 %, slightly faster than the minimum rate required to achieve the 2020 target (0.9 % per year). In 2015, it was still below the indicative linear trajectory drawn between the actual consumption level in 2005 and the targeted level for 2020, although not by as much as in 2014 (see Figure 6.1). The preliminary EEA estimates show that, following a 1 % increase compared with 2015, the EU's primary energy consumption in 2016 was above the indicative trajectory to 2020 (EEA, 2017h). This means that Member States will need to step up their efforts to keep the EU on track towards its 2020 targets.

Early estimates from an analysis under development by the European Commission [3] (EC, 2017g) show that the overall decrease in primary energy consumption between 2005 and 2015 was driven largely by a decrease in primary energy intensity (which led to a 19 % decrease in primary energy) and improvements in the efficiency of energy transformation (leading to a 2 % drop in primary energy consumption).

The EU's 2020 target for final energy consumption corresponds to an 8.9 % reduction from 2005 levels. In 2015, final energy consumption in the EU was 1 084 Mtoe, 9 % less than 2005 levels, and 2 Mtoe below the 2020 target. This gap was significantly narrower than in 2014, when final energy consumption was 24 Mtoe below the 2020 target (see Figure 6.1).

The decrease in final energy consumption between 2005 and 2015 was influenced by a number of factors, such as:

  • structural changes towards less energy-intensive industrial sectors;
  • improvements in end-use efficiency (especially in the residential sector);
  • lower energy consumption in the transport sector (although an increase in energy consumption has been observed in this sector since 2014);
  • the economic recession.

Overall, final energy consumption results from a mix of various elements, and the energy savings throughout this period are partially offset by the effects of activity, demographics and lifestyles (Odyssee-Mure, 2015).

Preliminary results from the analysis conducted by the European Commission (EC, 2017g) provide some further details on the reductions in final energy consumption in various sectors between 2005 and 2015:

  • Energy consumption in the commercial sector [4] dropped by 11 % (- 54.9 Mtoe), due mainly to energy intensity gains (- 96.9 Mtoe) and, to a lesser extent, structural shifts (- 20.4 Mtoe). Increased activity over the period (measured through the gross value added of products and services) led to an overall increase in final energy consumption, despite the economic recession between 2008 and 2012. All commercial sectors, except 'wood, paper and construction', achieved energy intensity improvements. 'Transport equipment', 'textile and leather', 'metals and machinery', 'non-metallic minerals' and 'other manufacturing' sectors stood out with the highest improvements.
  • Residential sector energy consumption dropped by 11 % (- 34 Mtoe) due to improvements in energy intensity. Warmer winters also contributed to lower energy demand for heating;
  • Energy consumption in the transport sector decreased by 2.8 % (- 10.6 Mtoe) due to structural changes and intensity improvements. These improvements were partially offset by higher activity (e.g. increase in transport demand) in recent years.

Figure 6.1 Primary and final energy consumption in the EU, 2005-2016, 2020 and 2030 targets

figure 6.1

Notes: The 2020 target represents energy savings of 20 % from levels projected for 2020 in the Commission's Energy Baseline Scenario (EC, 2008). The indicative 2030 energy efficiency target represents an improved energy efficiency of at least 30 % compared with 2030 projections in the same Energy Baseline Scenario.

In this assessment the target is expressed as a relative change compared to 2005 levels of EU primary energy consumption, to show the required reduction in primary energy consumption over time. The year 2005 was chosen because it is used as a base year for GHG (in the EU ETS and under the ESD) and for renewable energy targets. It also corresponds to a peak in energy consumption in the EU.

Sources: EC, 2008; EEA, 2017g, 2017h; European Council, 2014; Eurostat, 2017a, 2017b, 2017c.

6.2 Projected progress towards the European Union's 2020 energy efficiency target

No mechanism currently requires Member States to regularly report projections of their energy consumption levels in a scenario reflecting existing policies and measures. Assessing and aggregating to EU level the projected progress of Member States towards their energy efficiency targets based on currently reported information is thus not possible.

Therefore, only an assessment based on past trends can be provided. The EU will achieve its 2020 target for energy efficiency expressed as primary and final energy consumption if the average annual decreases observed between 2005 and 2015 are maintained until 2020 for both. This, however, may prove to be challenging due to the effects of the observed economic recovery and the fact that the energy efficiency targets of Member States aggregated to EU level remain higher than the target set for the EU as a whole (see Chapter 7 for detailed analysis).

For the primary and final energy targets to be fulfilled, more effort has to be made at Member State level in implementing and further developing current policy frameworks.

6.3 The 2030 targets on energy efficiency in the context of Energy Union

In November 2016, the European Commission released the 'Clean Energy for All Europeans' package, also known as the 'Winter Package'. It comprises legislative proposals on energy efficiency, renewable energy, electricity market design, security of electricity supply and governance aspects. One of its main goals is to 'put energy efficiency first', which makes explicit the relevance of energy efficiency for the clean energy transition (EC, 2016c).

In this context, the Commission proposed an update to the EED, including a new 30 % energy efficiency target for 2030 and an extension beyond 2020 of the energy efficiency obligation (which requires energy companies to achieve yearly energy savings of 1.5 % of annual sales to final consumers). In June 2017, the Council endorsed a 30 % energy efficiency target (EC, 2016b; European Council, 2017) [5]. Negotiations between the co-legislators on the Commission proposal to amend the EED (EC, 2017a) were still ongoing at the time of writing this report.

The 30 % energy efficiency target for 2030 is still set in comparison with the 2007 Energy Baseline Scenario of the European Commission (European Council, 2014). It translates into an absolute primary energy consumption of 1 321 Mtoe and an absolute final energy consumption of 987 Mtoe by 2030. These correspond to a 23 % and a 17 % reduction in primary and final energy consumption, respectively, relative to 2005 levels (European Council, 2017).

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[1] Primary energy in the context of the EED means gross inland energy consumption minus non-energy use. Primary energy consumption measures the total energy demand of a country. It covers consumption of the energy sector itself, losses during transformation (e.g. 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 not for combustion but for producing plastics). > Back

[2] Final energy consumption includes all energy delivered to the final consumer's door (in industry, transport, households and other sectors) for all energy uses. It excludes deliveries for transformation and/or own use of the energy-producing industries, as well as network losses. See Box 5.1. > Back

[3] Results of the draft report 'Assessing progress towards the EU energy efficiency targets using index decomposition analysis' (EC, 2017g) are still under review and might be subject to change once the final report is published. > Back

[4] 'Commercial sector' covers industry, services, agriculture, forestry and fishing in this context. For more information see EC, 2017g. > Back

[5] On 7 September, members of the European Parliament's environment committee expressed their support for a still more ambitious target of 40 %. See, accessed 8 September 2017. > Back


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