The EU has formally signed off on a revised Energy Efficiency Directive that nearly doubles mandatory annual energy savings to 1.5%. The new directive marks another step in the finalisation of the ‘Fit for 55’ package, designed to deliver 55% greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the EU by 2030. That package in turn lies at the heart of the European Green Deal and REPowerEU, Europe’s climate and energy policy response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The new directive imposes an energy efficiency target of 11.7% on the EU for 2030, compared with energy consumption forecasts made in 2020.

Under the amended directive, EU countries will be required to achieve an average annual energy savings rate of 1.5% from 2024 to 2030, almost double the current requirement of 0.8%. The annual savings requirement reaches 1.9% in 2030. This is expected to drive energy end-use savings across sectors such as buildings, industry and transport.

“Another milestone has been achieved today towards completing the Fit For 55 objectives. Our increased ambition and stronger measures on energy efficiency will accelerate the energy transition,” said EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson in a statement welcoming the directive’s adoption.

“EU countries will now be legally required to prioritise energy efficiency in policymaking, planning,and major investments,” the Commission explained. Energy efficiency requirements will have to become part of public procurement.

All companies, including SMEs that exceed 85 terajoules (TJ) of annual energy consumption, will have to implement an energy management system. Otherwise, they will be subject to an energy audit (if their annual consumption exceeds 10TJ). For the first time, the EU is also introducing a reporting scheme for the energy performance of large data centres.

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The legislation also includes a first-ever EU definition of energy poverty and requires EU member states to “prioritise energy efficiency improvements for vulnerable customers, low-income households and individuals in social housing”.

The EU defines energy poverty as a situation where households must reduce their energy consumption to a point where it negatively impacts their health and well-being due to high costs.

Last month the International Energy Agency (IEA) held its 8th Global Conference on Energy Efficiency, where governments endorsed the goal of doubling the average global rate of energy efficiency improvements by the end of the decade.

According to the IEA, energy efficiency progress must increase from 2.2% today to more than 4% annually by 2030 in a net-zero emissions scenario.

Energy efficiency in the UK

The UK Government has also announced new measures to combat energy inefficiency. Ministers have announced a £8.85m ($11.4m) funding package for education providers such as colleges and accreditation providers to train people in making homes more energy efficient.

“We need an army of skilled professionals able to install insulation and other energy-saving measures in homes across the country,” said Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, in a statement on 25 July.

“Today’s funding will give training providers the opportunity to put on the courses needed to help create the skilled workforce ready to join this rapidly growing market, with people able to benefit from these courses at low or no cost,” he went on.

The UK has the most energy-inefficient homes in Europe, according to research published in 2022 by UK-based think tank the Institute for Government. The report found that a UK home with an indoor temperature of 20°C and an outside temperature of 0°C lost on average of 3°C after five hours, up to three times as much as homes in European countries such as Germany.