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EU Action Plan on Energy Efficiency: 20% Savings by 2020

The European Commission has presented its Energy Efficiency Action Plan, which calls for actions to make energy appliances, buildings, transport and energy generation more efficient. It proposes stringent new energy efficiency standards, promotion of energy services, and specific financing mechanisms to support more energy efficient products.

The Commission will also establish a Covenant of Mayors from the 20-30 most pioneering cities in Europe and will propose an international agreement on energy efficiency. Altogether the plan includes more than 75 measures.

Europeans need to save energy. Europe wastes at least 20% of the energy it uses. By saving energy, Europe will help address climate change, as well as its rising consumption, and its dependence on fossil fuels imported from outside the Union’s borders.

Energy efficiency is crucial for Europe: If we take action now, the direct cost of our energy consumption could be reduced by more than euro 100 billion annually by 2020; around 780 million tons of CO2 will also be avoided yearly.

—EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs

The plan puts forward a comprehensive set of measures for improving energy efficiency in the area of transport, which accounted for more than 31% of the energy consumption in the end-use sectors and is almost entirely dependent upon oil.

Mobility, particularly by road, experienced strong growth over the last 30 years. Thirty years ago people travelled an average of 17 km per day by car, today we travel up to 35 km on average. Road transport also accounts for almost 45% of freight transport, a figure which is expected to increase further by 2010. The supremacy of road transport today is synonymous with congestion and pollution and costs the European economy around half a point of GDP per year.

Energy Saving Potential in the European End-Use Sectors
SectorEnergy consumption (Mtoe) 2005Consumption Mtoe 2020
(Business as usual)
Energy Saving Potential% Saving potential
Transport 332 405 105 26%
Manufacturing 297 382 95 25%
Residential 280 338 91 27%
Commercial Bldgs 157 211 63 30%

The plan recognizes that energy savings can be achieved, in particular, by ensuring fuel efficiency of cars, developing markets for cleaner vehicles, ensuring proper tire pressure and by improving the efficiency of urban, rail, maritime and aviation transport systems. The plan recognizes the importance of changing transportation behavior.

The Commission will, if considered necessary, propose legislation to ensure that the 120g CO2/km target is achieved by 2012 through a comprehensive and consistent approach, in accordance with the agreed EU objective. A proposal to strengthen EU requirements for labelling of cars will also be proposed.

The plan also emphasizes the considerable potential for reducing losses in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. The Action Plan proposes targeted instruments to improve the efficiency of both new and existing generation capacity and to reduce transmission and distribution losses.

The Action Plan, which will be implemented over the next six years, is in response to the urgent call from Heads of State and Government at the Spring European Council this year for a realistic Energy Efficiency strategy.



Rafael Seidl

The target is laudable, but as usual the devil is in the details. Creating financial incentives for the development/adoption of energy efficient technology is a useful carrot. Financial disincentives to wasting energy and/or banning wasteful technologies altogether are useful complementary sticks, to avoid the free rider syndrome.

For example, is there any justification for the continued availability of traditional filament lightbulbs?

Should homebuilders be required to meet energy efficiency targets in their permit applications, even if that raises the initial cost?

Would it be fair to introduce a minium fuel economy requirement for all newly certified LDV models, in addition to the fleet averages?



Notice that the energy savings barely gets them below curren consumption as it is counted against future business as usual.

Rafael: Answer to all your questions is "yes". Thanks for asking.

With regard to CFLs, Australia recently canceled a free CFL giveaway program when it was discovered that over half of the households had not bothered to install the new free bulbs. And people make jokes about the Polish. How many Australians does it take to change a light bulb?

We need a minimum fuel economy requirement for a number of reasons, including the fact that the current requirements are so complex and full of loopholes. Start at 30 mpg and move it up over time to 45 mpg.

The thorny issue, however, is what to to with "light" trucks. Should there be a separate standard? Even if one restricted them to commercial use, how could that be enforced? People need trucks from time to time, but, generally speaking, not to commute to work. As far as SUVs go, let them go the way of the dinosaur if they can't meet the same standards as all other passenger vehicles.

Given the large, existing housing stock, consideration should be given to requiring certain efficiency upgrades like insulation at point of sale. Boulder County Colorado is considering such a measure.

Harvey D.

What would be more convincing, financial incentives, higher energy price or a good dose of both? The status quo will not work. People do not care unless they feel it in their pocket book.

Why not tax energy inefficient articles and GHG creators such as incadescent and halogen light bulbs, buildings with high energy consumption, fosil fuels, all inefficient ICE machines etc., to pay for various incentive programs.

We can all easily reduce our energy (per capita) consumption by 25% to 50% by 2020.
There are 1001 ways to do it and it does NOT hurt.


One problem with florescent bulbs is that the quality of light they put out is inferior to filament bulbs. Fix that problem, and I think you'll get more people purchasing them. I'm one of those people.

One potential tech that could work out is LED lighting, but they're currently far too expensive to be economical in most homes.

Sid Hoffman

Inferior quality!? I made the switch to 5000K CFL's about a year ago and LOVE them and find the light quality vastly superior to any conventional lighting I've tried before. I've also had no problem with flickering the way old style fluorescent lighting does.


Unfortuantely for logic, adoption of some technologies like tungsten lighting is emotionally/aesthetically driven. Absurd as that may seem, people (more women perhaps)like the way they look and feel in the warmer light. Suggesting that creating CFLs that mimic lower color temperatures ~3200k would encourage consumption.

For that matter, audio freaks insist on using filament-based amplification equipment - purely because of the "warmer" sound that results.

At some point meeting aesthetic expectation may be the faster path to adopting technologies - given that the concessions remain largely cosmetic and equally efficient.


Further down the line, LEDs that replicate the solar spectrum could do the trick. In higher latitudes, this would also help reduce the winter blues. Increased productivity, and better psychological health, would make it worth while for companies, and the govt. to install these at their facilities.
_Another point is the fact that increased energy usage means more infrastructure. With electricity, this means more HV lines, more substations/transformer equipment, more capital to power plants to make more power, and ultimately more demand for the raw material used to make power, fuel. There can be some increased efficiency in power generation, but there will still be the need for more transmission. Thus NIMBY is one of the sticks behind this effort. GHG and climate change is another, and so is the need to decrease their exposure to geopolitical risks overseas.


I use CFLs almost everywhere, but they do have limitations: Starting in the cold they are very dim and take a while to produce a useable amount of light and they expire quickly if they are turned on too frequently, such as automated (sensor) lights or garage door openers. LEDs don't have those limitations and also don't contain mercury, but cost is at this point prohibitive.

Harvey D.

Sid & Erick; I fully agree with you. We also adapted very quick to a house with all florescent. The new dimmable R-30 flood lights work very well and seem to give a warmer light. The new GU-10 florescents work very well too and don't burn your hair (or your bald head) while shaving as do the halogen GU-10 and similar bathroom fixture lights.

The 83% efficiency HRVs with the new ECM variable speed motors is much more efficient (usus 1/3 the energy) with a lot less noise (about -10 db). Our new ECM equipt AHU gives similar results. The new 21 SEER heat pump, R410A with rotary ECM compressor unit runs from 15% to 100% (on demand) and is so quiet that we barely notice it is in operation. The overall confort level is much better with much lower energy consumption. Scroll type compressors and DC motors for HVAC should be banned (as all incadescent lamps)

SEER 20 or better, for domestic AC and Heat Pumps, should be the current standard, not 13 SEER. The HRV efficiency should be 80% +. All those units exist already. One manufacturer offers 23 SEER units. The yearly KWh saved (and noise reduction) can be impressive.


Fridge in a kitchen heats the house, and AC uses twice the energy of fridge to compensate for this “heater”, dissipating heat to outside air. Yet we use additional electricity to heat water we use in kitchen and bathroom. Integration of all these units in one heat exchange system delivers tremendous electricity savings. Experimental houses utilizing this technology are already developed under US DOE, and as I know by Toyota housing division in Japan.


It would be nice to have an Energy Star label on houses. Since they use a lot of energy and are not fully integrated, some real improvements could be made.


Banning filament lightbulbs sounds like over-reaching to me. Tax and price electricity to reflect externalities. Require adequate labeling so consumers can sensibly compare lightbulbs at the point of purchase. Promote public awareness. Etc. But after having used a succession of CFL bulbs in various fixtures in my house, I've switched a number of them back to filament bulbs. Issues with light spectrum output, cold-start performance, dimmer incompatibility and the like drove that decision. If I'm willing to pay extra to gain subjective comfort, please let me! You can take the extra taxes I'll pay and use them to fund a GHG mitigation scheme somewhere.





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