Efficiency First and where to find it


Energy efficiency bulb

Policy-makers continue to favour building pipelines and new generation capacity without being sure that this is the most cost-effective solution. Energy Efficiency and demand-side management are genuine yet undervalued alternatives that should be consider on a par with supply-side options.

The European Investment Bank estimates that Europe needs to attract an additional 70bn euro per year of investments in the energy efficiency sector alone to reach its 2030 target of at least 27% energy savings (compared with the business as usual scenario). This is almost three times more investments than the current level in the sector and more than twice as much what is required in the supply-side of the market.

European institutions need to adopt a more systematic approach to energy efficiency to be able to reach this objective. They need to put Efficiency First. This means considering the potential for energy savings and demand response in all decision-making related to energy, and prioritising efficiency improvements when they are more cost-effective or valuable than power generation, grids and pipelines and fuel supplies. It looks like common sense and yet this is not always the case as the publication Efficiency First: A new paradigm for the European energy system shows.

Commissioner Arias Cañete in charge of energy and climate policies famously said:

“it starts with taking ‘Efficiency First’ as our abiding motto. Before we import more gas or generate more power, we should ask ourselves: ‘can we first take cost-effective measures to reduce our energy [use]?’”. It is crucial that this political slogan is turned into concrete actions across the board.

Efficiency needs to be considered in all pieces of legislation so a fair competition can take place between demand and supply-side options to deliver the best deal for consumers. Together with partners, we have identified in Governance for Efficiency First: “Plan, finance and deliver” ten key immediate actions the European Commission should take during this Commission’s term to deliver on their promise.

Efficiency First is already happening on the ground but it currently lacks of a systematic approach at the European level, as showed in Efficiency First: From principle to practice. Local authorities, grid managers and national policy-makers across Europe are already delivering Efficiency First to a certain extent, but clear rules are missing. This needs to be addressed if we're to reap the multiple benefits for a more energy efficient Europe: increased competitiveness, more local jobs and growth, reduced energy poverty and a good management of tax payers money by reducing the risk of stranded assets.

Read the full reports:

Energy Union Choices report: Efficiency First: From principle to practice [PDF 3.9Mb]

Joint report - Efficiency First: A new paradigm for the European energy system [PDF 2Mb]

Governance for Efficiency First:Ten key asks [PDF 430Kb]

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