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Action Plan for energy efficiency (2000-2006)

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

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.


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.


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].

Last updated: 26.03.2007