"Energy Efficiency First" in the winter package


With the motto "Energy Efficiency First", the EU is establishing an important formula for the energy transition by 2030. It is in the large package of legislation, "Clean Energy for All Europeans", consisting of a total of eight directives and regulations. This is currently in the EU consultation process and is to be adopted by 2018.

An article by Susanne Ehlerding

In the draft Energy Efficiency Directive, the EU Commission has set a binding 30% energy efficiency target by 2030. “I’m particularly proud of this target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions,” says the Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Arias Cañete.

Energy management means considering energy efficiency

“Energy Efficiency First” goes beyond pure energy saving. “It means considering the potential for energy efficiency in all political decisions and in all investments in the energy system,” says Edith Bayer from the Regulatory Assistance Project, which observes the energy markets in China, India, Europe and the USA.
In three papers last year, Bayer dealt with the subject of “Energy Efficiency First”: Governance for Efficiency First: Plan, Finance and Deliver. Ten near-term actions the European Commission should take and Efficiency First: A New Paradigm for the European Energy System. The last to appear was Efficiency First: From Principle to Practice: Real-World Examples from Across Europe.
Bayer’s key finding: “We must treat energy efficiency as a resource,” she said to the “Emerging Leaders in Environmental and Energy Policy” network in an interview. In it she also explains the motivation behind the paper on real-world examples: In their previous work, Bayer and her co-authors were continuously running into the same issue: people would say they understood energy efficiency as a principle but did not understand what prioritisation meant as implied by the term “Energy Efficiency First”.

Energy saving through retrofitting

One of the best examples that they found was also one of the oldest: At the beginning of 1990s, the Welsh electricity utility, Manweb, was facing the prospect of having to build a new substation for the community of Holyhead. Electricity demand in Holyhead was continuously increasing. Manweb tried to avoid building the substation and invested in energy efficiency measures such as efficient light bulbs, free energy audits for commercial and industrial customers as well as hot water tank lagging to reduce peak demand. In the end, there was no need to build the substation due to the reduction in peak demand by 10%. Naturally, the efficiency programme also cost money, but Manweb had a net cost saving of 350,000 pounds.

Correct efficiency targets set?

Edith Bayer does have some criticism of the regulations in the winter package. She says the regulations are not detailed enough as to how “Energy Efficiency First” is to be implemented: “Demand response is hardly mentioned, there are too few considerations about improvements to existing building stock and how progress is to be reported,” she says.
The Ecofys consultants also still see plenty of room for improvement and have made proposals. For example, Ecofys advocates that the energy-saving target by 2030 should be 40% and not 30%. The costs for appropriate energy-saving measures could – contrary to the EU Commission’s assessment – certainly be recouped.

However, the wrangling over the savings targets is currently heading in the opposite direction – namely downwards. There are demands to reduce the annual energy savings objective, which already applies now and is confirmed in the winter package, from 1.5% to 1.4%, Dora Petroula from Climate Action Network reports. The network criticises that, because of the many loopholes, it is in fact only a 0.75% per year objective.

“We need champions that will prevent the savings obligation from being watered down,” Dora Petroula demands. “There is a great risk that, given the controversy about disputed issues such as electricity market design, the efficiency targets could fall through the cracks,” says Edith Bayer. “There is still a long way to go before “Energy Efficiency First” is really a living concept.”