In February 2015, the principle of Efficiency First was formally endorsed by the European Commission within the framework of the Energy Union.

Realising Efficiency First within the EU policy and legal framework will require the EU to make an appropriately high-level commitment to it, such that this central organising principle is properly integrated into models and impact assessments and is used to strengthen targeted efficiency legislation. The principle must also be integrated across a broad range of Energy Union policies and instruments, including funding decisions and infrastructure planning.

This memo sets out ten key actions that need to be taken by the European Commission in the near-term to put the EU on course to fully incorporate the Efficiency First principle into energy policy and law.

These include:

  1. Recognise Efficiency First as a foundational policy of the Energy Union and publish a Commission Action Plan setting out the short-, medium-, and long-term actions needed to implement, monitor, and enforce Efficiency First.
  2. Embed Efficiency First as a core principle in the EU assessment of how ambitious it can afford to be in meeting its Paris objectives.
  3. Revise the 2030 energy efficiency target to unlock the potential of energy efficiency to reduce the cost of meeting Europe’s goals for energy security, decarbonisation, growth, and competitiveness.
  4. Incorporate Efficiency First into the formulation of the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs), and annually assess progress on Efficiency First in the State of the Energy Union.
  5. Apply a societal (not a private) perspective, and value the multiple benefits of energy efficiency when carrying out law, policy, and project-related impact assessments.
  6. Ensure that energy demand projections used for infrastructure planning and project evaluation are consistent with EU climate and energy targets and the Efficiency First principle.
  7. Adopt Efficiency First as a central guiding principle for the allocation of EU funds (including EU technical assistance) and for the granting of State Aid approval, and review how accounting rules treat energy efficiency investment.
  8. Extend the annual energy savings objective in the Energy Efficiency Directive beyond 2020, and remove the flexibilities that weaken its impact; strengthen measurement and verification, and ensure periodic review of efficiency policies.
  9. Incorporate Efficiency First as a fundamental principle of energy-market design proposals with clearly defined mandatory roles for system operators and regulatory authorities to drive its implementation.
  10. Mobilise and support local actors to implement Efficiency First.

Experts from the Regulatory Assistance Project, E3G, ClientEarth, eceee, the Smart Energy Demand Coalition, CAN Europe, Friends of the Earth Europe, OpenExp, and the European Climate Foundation contributed to this policy brief.

This memo should be read in conjunction with the policy brief Efficiency First: A New Paradigm for the European Energy System.