Columnists: Arianna Vitali, Coalition for Energy Savings

Published on: 6 Oct 2023

Energy savings: What role for the next EU institutions?

The European elections are only a few months away. Next year, the newly elected EU institutions will shape the priorities of the European Union for the second half of this decade, which will be a make-or-break period for achieving the 2030 climate and energy objectives.

The strengthening of the EU’s climate and energy framework, including a new and upgraded Energy Efficiency Directive, has been a key legacy of the current EU institutions, notably through the Fit for 55 package and REPower EU. Energy savings and energy efficiency have progressively gained momentum with a more operational energy efficiency first principle, a brand new 2030 EU binding target for energy efficiency and the recognition that energy savings is the starting point to solve both short and long-term energy security concerns.

While progress is undeniable, there is still much work ahead to accelerate the delivery of energy savings and unlock their multiple benefits. The current EU institutions will be remembered for adopting a major overhaul of the European climate, energy, and environmental legislation, through the European Green Deal; the next EU institutions must turn legislation into reality, ensuring that it benefits European citizens, especially the most vulnerable.

To unleash the potential of energy savings as a key enabler in decarbonising our energy system, the new EU institutions should focus on the following five key pillars:

  1. Prioritise the delivery of the 2030 energy efficiency target: Achieving the increased 2030 EU energy efficiency target requires a substantial acceleration of actions. The new EU institutions must catalyse investments in energy savings solutions, provide implementation guidance to Member States and stakeholders, and regularly track progress to promptly take additional measures in case of need. They should also put in place enabling actions to make long-lasting and structural the energy saving behaviours introduced in response to high energy prices and the war in Ukraine.
  2. Make energy efficiency and sufficiency the key pillars of a flexible, renewables-based and affordable energy system: Europe’s energy system can transition to cleaner resources faster and at lower costs for consumers, by eliminating wasteful and inflexible demand across sectors, in line with the Energy Efficiency First principle. Indeed, energy savings cut the amount of energy needs and the size of the energy system leading to reduced investments and cost savings for consumers and businesses.
  3. Place energy efficiency at the core of EU industrial policy: Energy efficiency industries play a vital role in the energy transition, offering products and services that are essential for making this transition a reality. That’s why energy efficiency industries must be recognised as a strategic asset in EU industrial policy, and they must be helped to thrive by removing market barriers, ensuring a level playing field, addressing skills’ bottlenecks, and facilitating investment.
  4. Provide the necessary financing and funding for energy savings actions: The new EU budget for 2028-2035 will be adopted by the next EU institutions and it should better support energy savings actions. It must reward compliance with EU objectives and legislation and back key strategic sectors that can reduce emissions while improving living conditions of Europeans, such as the building sector. Financing must be easily accessible for all actors, well-targeted towards those that need it the most, and linked to the delivery of substantial and long-lasting energy savings.
  5. Recognise energy savings as a tool in decision-making across policies: Despite their broad benefits, energy efficiency measures are often confined in the toolbox of climate and energy policies. This silo approach fails to capture the full extent of the positive impacts of energy efficiency measures across sectors, such as for health, economy, employment, environment or water management. The new EU institutions must consider energy savings as a cross-sectoral tool at all levels of decision-making.

The last years have shown the importance of accelerating and prioritising energy savings to mitigate climate change, enhance EU energy independence, and make the transition more socially inclusive and affordable for citizens and businesses. The new EU institutions must continue on this path, establishing energy savings as the foundation of a renewables-based, affordable, secure and competitive energy system capable of meeting future challenges.

To read more about the Coalition’s suggestions for the next EU institutions, please read the paper “Energy Savings: The foundation of a clean, affordable and secure EU”.

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Arianna Vitali