Action Plan for Energy Efficiency

Table of Contents:

Action Plan for energy efficiency

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Action Plan for energy efficiency


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Energy > Energy efficiency

Action Plan for energy efficiency (2000-2006)

The Commission presents an Action Plan aimed at reducing energy consumption by improving energy efficiency. The goal is to protect the environment, enhance security of energy supply and establish a more sustainable energy policy.

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, of 26 April 2000, entitled: “Action Plan to improve energy efficiency in the European Community” [COM(2000) 247 – not published in the Official Journal].



Energy efficiency means reducing energy consumption without reducing the use of energy-consuming plant and equipment. The aim is to make better use of energy. Energy efficiency means promoting behaviour, working methods and manufacturing techniques which are less energy-intensive.

The measures to promote energy efficiency form part of the wider objectives of the European Community’s energy and environment policy. Greater energy efficiency has a major role to play in meeting the targets set in the Kyoto Protocol. It encourages a more sustainable energy policy and is a key element in the security of energy supply in the European Community, a subject which has given cause for concern in recent years.

The Action Plan is a follow-up to the Commission communication adopted in April 1998 on the rational use of energy and the Council resolution on energy efficiency.

This summary presents the measures proposed by the Action Plan and, where appropriate, gives an update of certain measures taken since its adoption.

Barriers to energy efficiency

There are many barriers to energy efficiency, such as inefficient use of energy in the industrial sector. Commercial barriers are also a major obstacle to improving energy efficiency, as they can prevent access to technologies and the spread of efficient energy forms. These include in particular:

  • the practice of selling energy by kWh rather than as a service;
  • energy prices that do not reflect the real costs of energy as they do not include the externalities;
  • institutional and legal barriers;
  • lack of or incomplete information which often hampers the use of cost-effective and energy-efficient technology.


According to the 1998 Communication, the European Community’s energy consumption could be reduced by 18% compared with the current situation by improving energy efficiency. The Action Plan proposes a target of a 1% decrease per annum until 2010 over and above that currently envisaged. This means that two thirds of the overall objective should be achieved by 2010.

In order to meet this overall objective, the Commission has set detailed targets with the aim of developing action in the area of energy and environment policy, refocusing attention on the subject, underlining the possibility of exceeding the objectives set and, finally, introducing measures to ensure the long-term improvement of energy efficiency, through the use of market forces and new technologies.


A wide range of instruments is to be used to implement the plan at European Community and national level. Many of the proposed actions are not mandatory (voluntary agreements, for example). The Community policies reinforce and supplement those of the Member States and the Community has an important coordinating role, through the SAVE programme in particular. It is important to note that SAVE projects will be undertaken in the areas described below. They are an important instrument for implementing the plan. A significant role is also attributed to the Fifth R&D Framework Programme.

The proposed actions are divided into three categories:

  • measures to integrate energy efficiency into other Community policies;
  • initiatives to strengthen and extend existing policies;
  • new policies and measures.

Category 1: Measures to integrate energy efficiency into other Community policies

There are six main areas:


The transport sector is a priority area for energy efficiency as it is responsible for over 30% of final energy consumption. The measures are mostly of a non-technological nature and include promoting the establishment of new infrastructures and, consequently, intermodality;

Modern enterprise policy

It is necessary to encourage sustainable development. This primarily concerns industries and can be achieved through voluntary agreements;

Regional and urban policy

This dimension should be integrated into the allocation of resources through the Structural Funds, the Regional Fund, the Cohesion Fund, etc.;

Research and Development

The Fifth Framework Programme of Research and Development and in particular the energy programme contribute to the research in this area. Of the 1 042 million allocated to energy between 1999 and 2002, 440 million will be allocated to energy efficiency;

Taxation and tariff policy

The Commission considers initiatives in these two areas important for improving energy efficiency. Tax exemptions for investments in energy efficiency are a possible example. In this connection, the Commission has already proposed a Community framework for taxation of energy products;

International cooperation and pre-accession activities

Approximation of legislation, harmonised efficiency standards, etc. as well as a measure of international liberalisation are desirable. In this context, the Energy Charter concluded with third countries and the participation of accession countries in programmes such as SAVE are important initiatives.

Category 2: Measures to strengthen and expand existing measures

It is necessary to strengthen and expand measures in four priority areas:


The proposed measures involve both non-mandatory measures (voluntary agreements) and legislation. The Commission has already set ambitious targets for this key sector, such as reducing the average CO2 emissions of new vehicles by one third by 2005/2010 compared with 1995 with the aid of voluntary agreements. Voluntary agreements have already been negotiated with the automobile industry. It is necessary to monitor and evaluate these agreements and to provide incentives to apply them in full.

Household appliances, commercial and other equipment

This covers equipment such as large domestic electrical appliances and lighting. The proposed measures principally concern labelling systems and minimum standards for energy efficiency.
It is necessary to reinforce and expand the existing Community labelling system which, although useful, has been relatively badly applied in certain cases (e.g. the labelling system for domestic appliances). In December 2006, the Community concluded a new agreement with the United States on energy efficiency on office equipment (the Energy Star label and programme). There must also be close synergy with the EU ” Eco-Label ” system.

As for agreements concerning minimum efficiency standards, voluntary agreements between the Member States and manufacturers on minimum efficiency standards for appliances have become an alternative to legislation. The Commission itself has concluded two agreements of this type (one on energy consumption by televisions and video recorders in standby mode and one on washing machines). The agreements will be extended to other appliances such as water heaters and dishwashers. There is no labelling system for the commercial and industrial sector. The Commission therefore believes that mandatory minimum efficiency standards are necessary if acceptable voluntary agreements are not concluded. The Commission is also going to propose a framework directive on concluding such agreements that will lay down minimum standards in certain areas, where necessary.

Industry (including electricity and gas companies)

There are plans to

  • conclude long-term agreements in industry;
  • increase combined production of heat and power (CHP);
  • increase the role of energy efficiency in the energy services offered by distributing companies and SMEs.

In the first case, it is necessary to remove technical barriers. This can be achieved via agreements or protocols on minimum energy efficiency, which lay down guidelines for energy-efficient processes and production methods. Such agreements have already been concluded in certain sectors and the scheme should now be extended to the chemical industry, steel industry, etc. The Commission will prepare a communication on harmonising these agreements at Community level.
CHP has a double role in contributing to energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact. An existing measure in particular is to be strengthened, namely Directive 88/609/EEC on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants, which implies greater use of CHP.

Concerning the third objective, it will be necessary to conclude voluntary agreements through which utilities and service companies commit themselves to promoting energy efficiency, while also complying with the normal cost efficiency criteria. Use of rational planning techniques is desirable (the Commission has made a proposal on this subject).


Buildings represent approximately 40% of energy consumption and the potential energy saving is more than 20%. The Action Plan proposes amending one of the key directives in this area, i.e. Directive 93/76/EEC on the energy certification of buildings, which seeks to limit carbon-dioxide emissions and includes insulation measures and heating requirements (Directive repealed by Directive 2006/32/EC).

In May 2001, the Commission made a proposal for a complementary directive on the energy performance of buildings. The Directives on boilers (92/42/EEC) and on construction products (89/106/EEC) also figure among the main actions in the sector and, in September 2000, a Directive on energy efficiency for lighting was adopted. The dissemination of good practices, the extension of labelling and the training and qualification of fitters are also planned. Moreover, among the many initiatives in this sector, the Community also finances a “Green Light Programme” concerning lighting in commercial buildings.

Horizontal Measures

The Action Plan sets out a number of “horizontal” initiatives designed to improve energy efficiency, i.e. initiatives which affect several or all of the sectors concerned. These are:

  • decentralisation of energy management at local and regional levels;
  • strengthening third-party financing (private undertakings, for example);
  • better dissemination of information and training via a renewed Community information campaign and specialised training;
  • better monitoring and evaluation methods through greater harmonisation of national monitoring programmes and definition of indicators.

Category 3: New Policies and Measures

New policies should be put in place in order to meet the targets. Some of them have already been implemented on a small scale in the Member States.

Promotion of energy efficiency in public procurement

Public procurement (public institutions, authorities, public enterprises, etc.) can promote the improvement of energy efficiency and thus stimulate demand for energy-efficient technologies. It thereby sets a good example in integrating energy-efficiency measures into public-sector policies/activities. The Commission has launched a study of Member States’ public programmes to provide recommendations for launching pilot projects. In this context, the institutions of the European Union have launched initiatives regarding their own energy management.

Cooperative technology procurement

This involves coordinating the needs and requirements of public-sector calls for tender for energy-efficient technologies, in order to be able to benefit fully from all the available technologies. The introduction of competitive tendering in some Member States should facilitate this task.

Energy audits in industry and the tertiary sector

Energy audits already carried out in certain Member States (sometimes in conjunction with incentives) have supplied useful information which is often difficult to obtain and have identified energy-saving opportunities. The Commission is considering presenting a Community initiative on energy audits in the Member States.

Best Practice

Following a feasibility study on this subject, a best-practices scheme has been launched under the auspices of the SAVE programme. This scheme aims to supply decision-makers and end-users with independent information and advice on energy efficiency and to familiarise them with new techniques and technology.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission of 19 October 2006, entitled: “Action Plan for energy efficiency: realising the potential” [COM(2006) 545 – Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission has proposed a new Action Plan aimed at achieving energy savings of 20% by 2020. This Action Plan covers the period 2007-12 and is a follow-up to the Action Plan adopted in 2000; the initiatives taken under the latter Plan have either been implemented already or are being implemented at the present time.

Directive 2006/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on energy end-use efficiency and energy services and repealing Council Directive 93/76/EEC [Official Journal L 114 of 27.4.2006].

Directive 2005/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 July 2005 establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using products and amending Council Directive 92/42/EEC and Directives 96/57/EC and 2000/55/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council [Official Journal L 191 of 22.7.2005].

Another Normative about Action Plan for Energy Efficiency


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic

Environment > Tackling climate change

Action Plan for Energy Efficiency (2007-12)

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 19 October 2006 entitled: Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential [COM(2006) 545 – Not published in the Official Journal].


The purpose of this Action Plan is to mobilise the general public, policy-makers and market actors, and to transform the internal energy market in a way that provides EU citizens with the most energy-efficient infrastructure (including buildings), products (including appliances and cars), and energy systems in the world.

The objective of the Action Plan is to control and reduce energy demand and to take targeted action on consumption and supply in order to save 20 % of annual consumption of primary energy by 2020 (compared to the energy consumption forecasts for 2020). This objective corresponds to achieving approximately a 1.5 % saving per year up to 2020.

In order to achieve substantial and sustainable energy savings, energy-efficient techniques, products and services must be developed and consumption habits must be changed so that less energy is used to maintain the same quality of life. The Plan sets out a number of short and medium-term measures to achieve this objective.

The Action Plan runs for a six-year period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2012. The Commission considers this timeframe to be sufficient to adopt and transpose most of the measures it proposes. A mid-term review will be carried out in 2009.


The Commission considers the biggest energy savings are to be made in the following sectors: residential and commercial buildings (tertiary), with savings potentials estimated at 27 % and 30 % respectively, the manufacturing industry, with the potential for a 25 % reduction, and transport, with the potential for a 26 % reduction in energy consumption.

These sectoral reductions of energy consumption correspond to overall savings estimated at 390 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) each year or €100 billion per year up to 2020. They would also help reduce CO2 emissions by 780 million tonnes per year.

These potential savings come in addition to an estimated 1.8 % (or 470 Mtoe) reduction in annual consumption which would partly stem from other measures already adopted and normal replacements of material.

Achieving the 20 % reduction objective will help reduce the EU’s impact on climate change and dependence on fossil fuel imports. The Action Plan will also boost industrial competitiveness, increase exports of new technologies and will have positive benefits in terms of employment. The savings made will, moreover, offset the investments put into innovative technologies.


The Commission included in the Action Plan all measures presenting the best cost-efficiency ratio, i.e. those with the lowest environmental cost over the life cycle, which do not overrun the budget given for investments in the energy sector. Some are priority measures, and should therefore be adopted without delay, whilst others are to be implemented throughout the six-year period set for the Action Plan.

Improving energy performance

Effective action on energy-consuming equipment and appliances requires steps on two fronts: standards for the energy yield of appliances and an appropriate, consumer-focused system to label and evaluate energy performance.

To this end, the Action Plan provides for the adoption of Eco-Design minimum standards to improve the energy yield of 14 groups of products (including boilers, televisions and light fittings) and to extend it to other products in the long-term. In addition, the Commission hopes to strengthen the rules on labelling, in particular by regularly updating classifications and extending these rules to other equipment.

On the basis of Directive 2006/32/EC on end-use energy efficiency and energy services, the Commission plans to draft guidelines, a code of conduct and a certification procedure applicable to all sectors.

To substantially reduce heat loss in buildings, the Action Plan plans to extend the scope of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive to cover small buildings, to develop minimum performance standards applicable to new and renovated buildings and to promote so-called “passive” houses.

Improving energy transformation

The energy transformation sector uses around one third of all primary energy, yet the average energy yield for transformation facilities is around 40 %. There is great potential for improving this, which would substantially help to reduce energy loss. Energy distribution and transport are also sources of energy losses where action could potentially be taken.

The Commission will develop minimum binding energy efficiency requirements for electricity generation facilities, heating and cooling for facilities operating with less than 20 megawatts of power, and possibly for more powerful facilities too.

It also plans to develop, in cooperation with industry professionals, guidelines for good practices designed both for existing facilities and for energy suppliers and distributors. The promotion of cogeneration will also be stepped up and connections with decentralised generation centres will be encouraged.

Limiting the costs linked to transport

With almost 20 % of total primary energy consumption and the fastest growth in consumption, the transport sector represents both a major environmental risk (greenhouse gas emissions) and one of the main factors of dependency on fossil fuels. To solve these problems, it is vital to take action on car use and on promoting cleaner alternative transport.

The Commission plans to set a binding target to reduce polluting car emissions to achieve the threshold of 120g of CO2/km by 2012. It also intends to address the issue of car components, such as air conditioning and tyres, in particular by issuing a European standard for rolling resistance and by promoting tyre pressure monitoring. Moreover, strengthening the rules on vehicle labelling will help to promote the most energy-efficient vehicles, as will proper awareness-raising campaigns and public authorities purchasing clean vehicles.

Urban transport will be the subject of a Green Paper, aimed at pooling experience to encourage the use of alternatives to car transport, such as public transport, non-motorised transport and teleworking.

Reducing the energy consumption of other forms of transport – rail, air and water-based – will also be studied. Accordingly, the Action Plan includes an initiative to extend the greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme to the air transport sector, to improve air traffic control (SESAR), to implement the third rail package, and to connect ships to the electricity network when in harbour.

Financing, incentives and fares

The Action Plan includes several types of measures to facilitate investments designed to boost energy efficiency.

The Commission also calls on the banking sector to offer financing opportunities tailored to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and enterprises providing energy efficiency solutions (businesses providing energy services). In addition, the private banking sector, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other international financial institutions will facilitate the establishment of public-private partnerships.

The Commission also plans to remove, where possible, the national legal barriers to shared savings, third-party financing, energy performance contracting and recourse to businesses providing energy services.

Using the Structural and Cohesion Funds will also help provide support to regions in need, especially in the new Member States, including support for habitats.

Taxation is also a powerful tool for providing incentives. Here the Commission notes that it would draft a Green Paper on indirect taxation, revise the Energy Tax Directive, and encourage the taxation of private cars according to their pollution levels. It also highlights the potential for using tax credits as incentives for both companies and households.

Changing behaviour

Consumers’ purchasing decisions will determine the success of the results. The Commission plans a number of educational measures to raise public awareness of the importance of energy efficiency, including education and training programmes on energy and climate change issues. It also proposes to organise a competition to reward the most energy-efficient school.

In addition, the Commission considers that public authorities should set an example. The Commission itself plans to obtain EMAS certification for all buildings it owns, and then to extend the initiative to all EU institutions.

It also plans to adopt guidelines on tenders and to set up networks for cities to exchange good practices concerning energy efficiency in urban areas.

Adapting and developing international partnerships

The Commission considers that European development and trade policies, agreements, treaties and other international instruments represent other ways to promote the spread and use of high energy yield technologies and techniques at global level.

It will launch an international conference with a view to adopting an international framework agreement on energy efficiency which will involve the EU’s main trading partners and key international organisations.


In its Green Paper on the European Energy Strategy, the Commission underlines the need to strengthen its energy efficiency policy. In addition, the target for a 20 % reduction in energy consumption set in this Action Plan is part of the measures requested by the European Council in March 2006 to ensure the environmental feasibility of European Energy Policy.

The policies and measures contained in this Action Plan are based on the consultations launched by the 2005 Green Paper on Energy Efficiency.

Related Acts

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 13 May 2008 – “Addressing the challenge of energy efficiency through information and communication technologies” [COM (2008) 241 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

This communication places information and communication technologies (ITCs) at the heart of a combined European climate and energy policy. ITCs are effectively a means of improving energy efficiency in different sectors of the economy. To begin with the focus is on the most promising domains, such as the power grid, energy efficient buildings, smart lighting and ITCs, before the consultation and partnership process is launched, which will identify other areas for action. This communication also encourages research and innovation, cooperation, regional and national initiatives, as well as the dissemination of good practice in the field of ITCs.

Directive 2006/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2006 on energy end-use efficiency and energy services and repealing Council Directive 93/76/EEC [Official Journal L 114 of 27 April 2006].

The EU adopted a framework on energy end-use efficiency and energy services. This framework includes an indicative goal for energy savings applicable to Member States, obligations for national public authorities regarding energy savings and energy efficient procurement and measures to promote energy efficiency and energy services.

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