Green paper on Energy efficiency

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Why save energy?

The EU depends on energy imports for 50% of its current consumption, a figure that could reach 70% by 2030. This high level of dependence is added to the expected depletion of traditional energy resources and the insufficient development of renewable resources, three factors that require energy demand to be controlled in order to do more with less.

In the Green Paper, the Commission estimates that the EU could reduce energy consumption by 20% by 2020, which would release a sum of EUR 60 billion per year for other investments. Such a level of saving would have a positive impact on EU citizens in two ways. It would reinforce the competitiveness of European industry within the framework of the Lisbon agenda and could lead to the creation of a million jobs in related fields (transport management, high energy efficiency technologies, etc.). A 20% energy saving would also allow the EU to meet its Tokyo commitments by reducing CO2 emissions in order to protect a healthy environment for the citizens of today and tomorrow.

In which areas could energy efficiency be strengthened?

If current consumption trends continue, energy consumption in Europe will rise by 10% in the next fifteen years. The Commission intends to reverse this trend by combating the main forms of energy waste.

The first sector with a high energy saving potential is transport, representing a third of the EU's total consumption. The dominance of road transport and its high level petrol dependence are accompanied by congestion and pollution problems which add to energy waste.

Another area affected by the improvement of energy efficiency is energy production itself. Depending on the technology used, 40 to 60% of energy necessary for electricity production is lost in the production process.

Finally, important progress can be made in the buildings sector, either in houses or offices. Heating and lighting buildings counts for nearly 40% of energy used in the EU and could be managed more efficiently.

Applying existing measures and thinking of new ones

The Commission emphasises energy saving actions already launched at European level. Out of the 20% of possible savings that could be made by 2020, 10% could result from the full application of existing legislation, particularly in the transport, heat production and buildings sectors. Effectively implementing the Intelligent Energy - Europe (2007-13) programme is equally important before launching new initiatives. Instruments for improving energy efficiency in the EU exist and so must be used.

The other 10% of energy savings require new laws and new behaviour to be adopted by all players concerned, i.e. across all public authorities, industries and individuals. The Commission therefore proposes practical energy saving measures in different sectors to meet the objective of 20% by 2020.

Avenues opened by the Green Paper

In the transport sector, tax schemes favouring clean and economical vehicles must be put in place to ensure that the polluter really pays. Similarly, manufacturers supporting energy efficiency must be rewarded and consumers must be made accountable for issues such as tyre pressure, use of public transport and car pools. The Commission also wishes to finance research and the development of alternative fuels. Finally, it calls for better road and air traffic management on a continental scale to limit congestion and pollution, particularly by using the applications of the GALILEO programme.

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