Saving Energy must be at the core of the European Union energy security strategy. The ongoing recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive is the opportunity to take bold action to structurally reduce the EU’s energy imports in a way that is fully aligned with climate neutrality and can benefit all citizens.
We must stop fossil fuel imports from Russia as soon as possible: this is one of the European Commission’s key objectives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The REPowerEU plan, published last May, puts energy savings at its core to achieve a fast and long-lasting transition towards EU energy independence.
PUTTING ENERGY EFFICIENCY FIRST TO ACHIEVE ENERGY SECURITY AND CLIMATE NEUTRALITY
Applying the energy efficiency first principle allows breaking the vicious cycle of responding to a supply-side crisis with measures that perpetuate dependence on fossil fuels imports, such as diversification of suppliers. It means systematically assessing demand-side measures and prioritising them whenever they bring more benefits to society than supply-side ones. For example, instead of constructing new pipelines to supply heat to our buildings, the old and inefficient ones must be renovated first to reduce, at the same time, energy imports and citizens' energy bills.
In line with the energy efficiency first principle, saving energy provides an energy security solution, both for the short and long-term, that is fully compatible with a fair and affordable energy transition to climate neutrality.
SAVING ENERGY QUICKLY TO ADDRESS THE EMERGENCY
Short-term energy savings measures, including behavioural changes and sufficiency measures, are essential to decrease fossil fuels imports rapidly. All sectors can positively contribute to quickly cutting energy use, from buildings (with an acceleration of renovations and upgrade of heating systems) to industry (with energy management solutions and industrial insulation). Citizens can also make a difference by adopting less wasteful energy behaviours, but they need support, advice and change in price incentives to ensure the new behaviours become permanent.
However, measures to save energy quickly must be complemented with strategies to cut energy use in the longer run, clearly anchored in the EU legislative framework. It is only then that a structural change in how the EU produces and consumes its energy can materialise.
BOOSTING THE ENERGY EFFICIENCY DIRECTIVE TO DELIVER THE REPOWEREU’S OBJECTIVES
With the REPowerEU plan, the European Commission acknowledges that the clean energy transition must be accelerated beyond the Fit for 55 Package to address the EU’s energy security crisis, notably by enhancing its proposal to recast the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED).
Crucially, it proposes to increase the 2030 EU binding energy efficiency target from 9% to 13%. This is a step in the right direction but still below the full cost-effective energy savings potential, which a recent analysis showed to be at 19% as a minimum. In the same vein, the EU “Save Energy” plan, encourages co-legislators to boost key provisions of the efficiency framework currently under revision, such as the energy savings obligations, a key article of the EED.
The current crisis reveals the cost of weak energy efficiency actions in the past decade. The EU, particularly its Member States, will need to speed up efforts to compensate for the slow progress and adopt strong measures to reduce energy demand. An ambitious adoption of the Energy Efficiency Directive is crucial in that perspective. If we want to avoid recurring energy crises, price spikes, and increases in emissions, it is time to take bold actions on energy efficiency.
About the author:
Arianna Vitali is Secretary General at the Coalition for Energy Savings since 2021.
The Coalition strives to make energy efficiency and energy savings the first consideration of energy policies; it unites businesses, local authorities, energy agencies, energy communities and civil society organisations in pursuit of this goal.
Before joining the Coalition, Arianna was Senior Policy Advisor at BPIE where she managed research projects and steered BPIE work related to the Renovation Wave. Previous to that, she was part of the climate and energy team of the WWF European Policy Office, where she coordinated WWF advocacy on energy savings in Europe.
Disclaimer: This article is a contribution from a partner. All rights reserved.
Neither the European Commission nor any person acting on behalf of the Commission is responsible for the use that might be made of the information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and should not be considered as representative of the European Commission’s official position.
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