The European Union’s Energy Efficiency Plan

Back in 2006, the European Union realized that they were facing some serious energy challenges. These challenges were due to an increase in import dependency, global fossil fuel supplies, a “…clearly discernable climate change”, and a substantial waste of 20% of its energy due to inefficiencies.

Say what now? “A substantial waste of 20% of its energy due to inefficiencies”? Oh. Ok, we’ll be revisiting that shortly…

Anyway, a plan to achieve a 20% improvement in energy savings by the year 2020 was implemented and was included as one of the five headline targets of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable growth. Unfortunately, after a progress review, the European Commission found that it was likely that the EU would achieve only half the 20% target by 2020 and it was strongly urged that a new plan be developed to get it back on track. This urgency was likely further fueled by the estimated 100 billion Euros that these inefficiencies cost the EU every year, to say nothing of the kilograms upon thousands of kilograms of carbon emissions being dumped into the atmosphere. And then there’s that pesky economy in desperate need of stoking. It’s been suggested that a focus on renewable energy could put a much needed log in the European Union’s economy fire.

Cut to March, 2011, and the Commission has put forth a new energy efficiency plan (aptly named the…ahem…Energy Efficiency Plan) which set out further measures to achieve the kind of energy savings they were looking for originally. The plan states that energy efficiency is “…one of the most cost effective ways to enhance [the]security of [the]energy supply and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.” It goes on to say that energy efficiency as a model could be considered Europe’s biggest energy resource. Huzzah!

The reinvigorated plan has potential to save each household an average of €1000 (approx. $1400 USD) each year, create up to 2 million jobs and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 740 tons. Sounding pretty good, so far.

So, where exactly is the greatest source of such savings? Buildings. The plan “…focuses on instruments to trigger the renovation process in public and private buildings and to improve the energy performance of the components and appliances used in them”. Of course, other sectors with potential for energy efficiency upgrades are addressed as well – transportation, for instance. However, considering that buildings (residential and commercial structures) represent about 30% of total EU energy consumption, I’d say a strong focus on that particular sector is what you might call a wise decision.

An example of that wise decision can be found in the energy efficiency solution that a Smartcool Systems distributor, Bricks & Bits, developed for a commercial wholesale store in Poland. Smartcool’s technology was installed as a pilot project in a Makro Cash & Carry store and ended up providing a return of invested capital in just 20 months! Remember that “…substantial waste of 20% of…energy due to inefficiencies”? Looks as though Makro Cash & Carry is making a dent in that percentage. Well played, Makro Cash & Carry. Well played.

The Energy Efficiency Plan states that by producing more with less energy, the EU’s industries will only become more competitive and will put them in the lead in global markets for energy efficiency technologies. The Plan appears as though it will be effective, as long as everyone stays on track. The countries in the Union are taking the necessary steps towards a more energy efficient future, but they’re not the only countries in Europe. We’ll be taking a look at the steps that a number of non-Union countries are taking towards a more sustainable future in upcoming blog posts, so stay tuned!

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