Towards energy efficiency for Europe

15 July 2022

One year after the so-called FitFor55 package signalled a firm commitment to adapt EU energy and climate legislation in line with the EU’s goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 55%, and in the midst of an energy price crisis, the European Parliament has agreed to step up EU energy saving commitments for 2030.

The existing Energy Efficiency Directive sets out the level of energy savings that the EU plans this decade, but as part of the FitFor55 drive MEPs in the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy this week agreed to upwardly revise these targets, and provisionally bake them into EU law through binding national commitments.

The new targets, set collectively across EU member states, would ensure a reduction of at least 40% by 2030 in final energy consumption and 42.5% in primary energy consumption compared to 2007 projections. This corresponds to 740 and 960 million tonnes of oil equivalent for final and primary energy consumption, respectively.

“Ensuring that the energy efficiency drive is increased across the energy sector, from energy production to end user, is a necessary step to meet the demands of the European Green Deal,” said Eugenia Mansutti, Policy Advisor on Energy at Eurocities.

Portrait of Eugenia Masutti
Eugenia Mansutti, Policy Advisor on Energy, Eurocities

“At local level, we have been pushing for a clearer direction on energy efficiency measures and savings; and have already been implementing our own local plans, for example through the Covenant of Mayors,” she adds.

Indeed, achieving these targets will very much depend on the ability of local, regional, national and European levels of government to work together in different sectors – e.g. public administration, buildings, businesses, and data centres.

A just transition

One of the key aspects of the compromise text relates to buildings, with social housing now included as part of the target 3% renovation rate of public buildings. Nonetheless, a caveat introduces the possibility to exempt social housing when renovations are not cost-neutral, or expenses can’t be compensated by energy savings.

Moreover, the obligation to renovate public buildings has also been weakened, from zero emissions buildings to nearly-zero energy buildings, based on determinants such as cost effectiveness.

Energy poverty is increasingly a newsworthy topic these days, especially following the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. As Zdeněk Hřib, Mayor of Prague explains, it is one that is very close to many local politicians’ hearts.

Zdeněk Hřib, Mayor of Prague

“An increasing number of households are at risk of energy poverty, and every effort possible should be made to ensure that meeting energy efficiency targets does not mean leaving people out in the cold,” Hřib said.

If managed correctly, the energy transition represents an opportunity to improve and lift households out of energy poverty if subsidies and public funding are made available to those with reduced access to market-price loans.

However, as suggested by Eurocities, and included in the final text, adding a more inclusive definition of energy poverty to include low-income households or vulnerable groups creates a better consideration of the impact of energy efficiency legislation on people.

The new agreement also introduces a better identification of the energy poor by adding indicators applied by Member States. Despite this, one obvious gap is that it leaves out the dimension of transport poverty.

Another area that offers huge potential at local level is the creation of energy communities, which the final text acknowledges can actively contribute to energy efficiency measures, such as local heating and cooling projects or awareness raising among citizens. With this in mind, one win for cities is that it also requests member states to remove administrative burdens at all levels, to facilitate the emergence of energy communities

According to Sébastien Barles, Deputy Mayor of Marseille, “investing in local energy markets offers the chance to democratise energy, decarbonise our public buildings, tackle energy poverty and contribute to achieving the European Green Deal.”

Similarly, locally operated one-stop shops provide a crucial service to help get people on board in the energy transition. With this in mind, the final agreement supports access to locally operated one-stop shops to help households in their building renovation plans and other advisory bodies, such as energy service companies.

It also requests EU member states to engage with the relevant authorities in developing one-stop shops and local projects.

Room for improvement

As Mansutti surmises, “the text contains many positives for cities, including in areas such as exemptions for special architectural or historical buildings on energy performance requirements that would unacceptably alter their character of appearance, or regards district heating, where urban areas (over 35,000 inhabitants) will need to coordinate their plans with energy operators and regional plans, even if it lacks specifics on how such increase capacity is to be achieved, which Eurocities continues to be vocal on. And, there remain a few other areas to be worked on.”

“For example, while the text requests member states to lower the administrative burden by establishing digital platforms that would collect aggregated consumption data from all public bodies, it does not include accessible data for heating, cooling and domestic hot water consumption to local authorities, which would really have helped cities better understand the current state of play in progress towards these targets,” she adds.

In addition, for many cities, one area of extra administrative burden is hidden in current requirements to provide energy performance certificates alongside energy audits on certain types of buildings, rather than simplifying this process by mandating one assessment, which Mansutti suggests would be an area to work on going forwards, especially in the upcoming revision to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Another area that could be further addressed in the EPBD revision is how public buildings can promote recharging and refuelling infrastructure, which is essential to decarbonise the transport sector.

The text will now be taken forward for negotiations with the Council of the EU and for a final vote in the European Parliament plenary in September.

In a separate vote, Members of the European Parliament’s ITRE committee also backed the proposals first shared as part of the recently announced REPowerEU package to increase renewable energy targets to 45% by 2030.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer