Niels Fuglsang on how energy efficiency fuels a more secure world

Energy efficiency is an important way to save resources, lower energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Russia’s shocking invasion of Ukraine has, however, also made energy efficiency important in the context of energy security.
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By Niels Fuglsang

Niels Fuglsang (DK, S&D) is Parliament’s rapporteur on the Revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED)

27 Apr 2022

The current European Parliament is probably the greenest yet. This is first of all reflected in the promises we have already made: the adoption of the European Climate Law in 2021 is a common promise to work together on the major climate tasks we globally face. We have set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030, and it is now time to deliver. 

A key part of this effort is about using our energy in a smarter and more efficient way. I am the Parliament’s rapporteur for the Energy Efficiency Directive recast. It contains a set of demands, principles and guidelines for how Member States can make better use of their energy consumption and save resources, thereby reducing energy demand and bills as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Russia’s shocking invasion of Ukraine has, however, also made energy efficiency important in the context of energy security. 

The greenest energy is the energy we do not use. Becoming more energy efficient – achieved through such basic investments as double-pane windows, modern thermostats and building insulation – allows us to make better use of the existing energy, instead of having to produce or import more energy from unreliable exporters such as Russia.  

In the past, the efficiency imperative has often been overshadowed in EU energy policy discussions by the goal of increasing the share of renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro in the energy mix. But these objectives are two sides of the same coin. According to the International Energy Agency, over 40 per cent of future CO2 reductions must be found through energy efficiency globally. It is therefore crucial that EU climate policy recognises this fact. 

The European Commission has proposed to raise the final energy efficiency target to 36 per cent in 2030 as compared to a 2007 baseline scenario, along with requirements for each member state to deliver higher annual energy savings obligations of 1.5 per cent. However, I believe that the EU’s policy to reduce energy waste and thus CO2 emissions should be more ambitious.

Energy efficiency can help us tackle these complex and many-sided issues. If we use our energy as efficiently as possible, we lower the general European need for Russian energy purchases, thereby becoming more independent and secure in the future.” 

First, I therefore propose to increase the energy efficiency target to 43 per cent on the final energy consumption. Secondly, I propose an obligation for each Member State to save 2 per cent of its energy consumption every year from 2024 to 2030. Thirdly, I support the Commission’s proposal that 3 per cent of all public buildings must be energy renovated every year – today, this only applies to a limited proportion of public buildings. 

While the package was put forward by the European Commission last July, Russia’s war in Ukraine has made both the need for ambitious targets and their implementation all the more important. A lowered energy supply has made energy prices skyrocket, affecting European citizens and businesses in an unjust manner in all Member States.

To remedy this situation, the legislation should set binding requirements for all EU member states to make an effort to save energy and use energy smarter, carried out in a socially balanced way, so that the bill does not fall on those who already live in energy and mobility poverty. The energy price is, in itself, a crucial parameter at this point. From a social perspective, energy efficiency will also bring significant economic and social benefits, as deep building renovations carry the promise of many new skilled jobs and the stimulation of economic activity in cities and elsewhere. In addition, thanks to the unprecedented funds the EU raised to overcome the pandemic-induced slump in 2020, member states are in a strong position to kick-start a Europe-wide renovation wave. 

Energy efficiency can help us tackle these complex and many-sided issues. If we use our energy as efficiently as possible, we lower the general European need for Russian energy purchases, thereby becoming more independent and secure in the future. Therefore, I have recently proposed an amendment to the Directive in advance of the upcoming negotiations, demanding that by 2027 we should collectively ensure a reduction in the EU’s gas consumption equal to 40 per cent of the current gas imports and 27 per cent of the oil imports. These numbers correspond directly to our current import of Russian gas and oil. 

Energy efficiency thus becomes a dual tool for a more sustainable and secure world. It will contribute significantly to the green transition and emission reduction as well as making Europe more independent of unreliable foreign nations that use energy supplies as a political weapon. 

Read the most recent articles written by Niels Fuglsang - Offshore Energy: it’s time for the EU to lead by example in renewables

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