In 2012, the Energy Efficiency Directive was adopted by EU leaders, enacting a 20 % energy efficiency target to be achieved by 2020. In 2018, the policy framework was updated to 2030 and beyond, and the amended Energy Efficiency Directive (EU) 2018/2002 came into force, establishing a target of at least 32.5 % improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 in the 27 EU Member States (EU-27). In 2021, the European Commission proposed a revision of the Directive including a 9% increase of the 2030 binding target; It was then proposed in 2022, in the context of the REPowerEU plan to increase the target from 9% to 13%. The proposals are currently under negotiations in the Council and in the European Parliament.

The EEA monitors progress towards the energy efficiency targets using indicative linear trajectories between the primary and final energy consumption levels in 2005 and the 2020 targets.

What the data are telling us

  • Following the substantial fall in energy consumption in 2020, largely driven by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EU-27 met and overachieved the 2020 target in its final year, after not having been on track to do so.
  • In terms of final energy consumption, a slightly decreasing trend is observed over the last 15 years.
  • Achieving the current 2030 energy efficiency target of improving energy consumption by at least 32.5 % - and the forthcoming more ambitious new targets under discussion - will require continuous intensive reductions in energy consumption and substantial investments in different sectors.
  • To achieve climate neutrality by 2050, the EU will need to reduce its primary and final energy consumption faster than it has since 2005.

At the global level, energy efficiency is a key dimension of a sustainable and low-carbon energy system; it is central to the current United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The target of SDG 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) is to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.

At EU level, the energy union strategy (launched in 2015) provides the main direction of EU energy policy. Increasing energy efficiency is one of the five dimensions at the core of the policy: the overall aim is to reduce dependence on energy imports, lower emissions, and drive jobs and growth.

Reducing energy consumption and the waste of energy across the whole energy system — from production to final consumption — in all economic sectors is one of the EU’s strategic objectives. It benefits both the environment, by mitigating climate change and reducing other air emissions, and Europeans, by lowering their energy bills and improving their quality of life. It also improves the competitiveness of EU companies and contributes to reducing the EU’s energy dependency.

The overall trend in final energy consumption is driven by the progress in each sector and by other factors. The reduction in final energy consumption in industry tends to be outweighed by the increase in the transport sector, for example. Energy efficiency measures, and a shift towards a more service-oriented economy, are driving a decline in consumption in industry. In buildings, energy efficiency improvements are outweighed by the increasing number of appliances and increasing floor areas. Overall, the increasing energy consumption in the transport sector is slowing down its progress.

The Energy Efficiency Directive (2012/27/EU) defines the EU’s energy efficiency target for 2020; this is expressed in terms of both primary energy consumption and final energy consumption. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive ((EU) 2018/844) outlines specific measures for the building sector to tackle challenges. In energy efficiency, energy labelling legislation (updated in 2017) and the ecodesign legislation (2009) are also relevant [1] .

In absolute terms, the headline EU energy efficiency target of at least 32.5 % for 2030, means that EU energy consumption should be no more than 1 273 Mtoe (million tonnes of equivalent) of primary energy and/or no more than 956 Mtoe of final energy. (The Commission Decision on the equivalent target after the United Kingdom no longer applies EU law states that it should be no more than 1 128 Mtoe of primary energy and no more than 846 Mtoe of final energy.)

In 2021, the European Commission has proposed a revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive and of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD) to reflect the EU’s increased climate ambitions, as set out in the European Green Deal, and the goal of reducing net GHG emissions by at least net 55 % compared with 1990 by 2030. In 2022, the Commission proposed to raise the ambition of the 2030 EU target in the context of the REPowerEU plan.

[1] Directive 2009/125/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products. Regulation (EU) 2017/1369 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2017 setting a framework for energy labelling and repealing Directive 2010/30/EU.