Energy policies as the bridge between “consumers” and “citizens”

Céline Carré, Head of EU Public Affairs, Saint-Gobain

The energy consumer will be a catalyst towards a decentralized and decarbonized energy system as stipulated in the European Commission’s Clean Energy for All Europeans communication. He/she will be able to change energy supplier, monitor and adapt consumption pattern, and produce energy.

But how to reconcile these opportunities with the imperative to meet our European 2050 climate goals and subsequently reduce energy demand? How to reinvent consumption in a way that values the services provided by energy, e.g. mobility, warmth, or light, instead of perpetuating a production-consumption-wastage model?

As a simple value proposition to help consumer take ownership of the transition, energy efficiency is a recipe for aligning short term actions and long-term goals, individual and collective responsibilities, and, not least, rich and poor.

Energy efficiency reduces our import dependency and provides continuous growth and jobs impetus. It helps consumers reduce their bills and quit energy poverty, and it makes our lives healthier. Without it, global energy demand today would be fifty percent higher for buildings only, and the prospect of a net zero carbon society by 2050 would be a foolish dream since electricity demand is set to double in sectors like housing and transport.

The question is how to ensure that energy efficiency plays the role it deserves for consumers to benefit from the transition. The following five guiding concepts suggest ways to overcome the risks of inconsistent signals to consumers.

Align vision and action – Giving visibility regarding what each sector should deliver for the transition is needed for consumers to take the right decisions.

Build lasting support – Eurobarometer polls show that Europeans expect more action at EU level to tackle environmental issues. Political leaders should not wait to leverage this deeper climate awareness into more concrete forms of engagement.

Practice inclusiveness – The renewed support for action is an invitation to put every consumer at the center of the game. Not every home owner can afford an nZEB renovation, and those who cannot need support. But let’s not forget to design adequate policy mixes for all those ready to jump on the renovation train.

Educate – Policy-makers can explain better the complementarity of solutions, concepts such as “efficiency first”, and the cost of non-action. In the same way than a healthy diet does not simply consist in adding some vegetables twice a week, and requires eliminating junk food, a healthy energy system starts with eliminating wastage.

Champion frontrunners: The beauty of the energy transition is that it starts very close to us, e.g. in buildings, with better thermal comfort, light, or acoustic conditions, and air quality. There is room for empowering early movers who can share convincing success stories.

We are in a long journey with no secret short-cuts or exit buttons, but where energy efficiency can deliver the essential benefits that underpin societal buy-in towards our 2050 goals. To get there, our leaders need to be bold, grasp the renewed momentum, practice joined-up thinking and place citizens’ aspirations at the core of their policies.

This article is a contribution from a EUSEW Partner. All rights reserved. 

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Climate Action Call ahead of EU Elections and new Commission

The climate crisis is an existential threat to humanity. Climate change is already severely impacting people’s lives, particularly in the world’s most vulnerable countries, but also in Europe.

Scientists say that we face a climate emergency. We need decisive action in the next 10 years to put us on a transformative pathway in line with the targets of the Paris Agreement, including efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. We must act immediately to get on track for a healthy, fair and livable future.

This will not only reduce devastating impacts of climate change but also bring major economic and social benefits, attract new investments, create new quality jobs and limit health damages.

The European Parliament elections and subsequent changes in the leadership of the European Commission will shape the politics of the European Union for the next five years, a crucial period for climate action where emissions need to decline fast, targets need to be strengthened and ambitious action needs to be implemented. The new Parliament and the new Commission must address growing concerns about climate change and make climate action a top priority for Europe.

Therefore, we call upon the new European Parliament, the new European Commission and all EU Member State governments to:


  1. Commit to accelerate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions as soon as possible.

The world is not on track to keep temperature rise to 1.5°C. We support the call from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, upon all leaders to come to his special UN Climate Summit in September with additional commitments that will lead to halving global emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero  by 2050. By the Summit, EU leaders should agree to reach climate neutrality in line with the EU’s fair share of the effort to achieve net zero global emissions by 2050. Furthermore, EU leaders must agree on a plan to substantially increase its 2030 targets.


  1. Plan the end of the use of fossil fuels and provide strong support to energy efficiency, renewable energy and emission cuts outside the energy sector

Our economic development no longer depends on fossil fuels. In fact, energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies have become cheaper and are more beneficial for all. EU decision makers need to plan to phase out coal, gas and oil use, starting with immediately ending all financial support to fossil fuel infrastructure. At the same time, they need to  increase support to research, innovation and deployment of clean alternatives, including through prioritising energy efficiency across all sectors and investing in sustainable renewable energy. Ambitious climate and energy targets should be complemented by stronger immediate action in all sectors to achieve quick emission cuts.

  1. Safeguard a just and fair transition and ensure that the EU increases its support to developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change

The zero emissions transition needs to be just, orderly and fair, benefiting everyone and leaving no one behind. This should be done by integrating strong social measures, supportive industrial and business policies and safeguarding workers’ and human rights. Regions that are still highly dependent on fossil fuels, as well as regions highly affected by climate change, such as maritime regions, should be supported in this transition. Europe must also substantially increase its financial and other support for climate action and resilience in developing countries, which are being hardest hit by climate change.

  1. Increase efforts to roll out the circular economy and increase resource efficiency

We live on a resource-constrained planet where using resources efficiently is necessary for continued prosperity and well-being. The EU should build circularity and resource efficiency into all future policies to facilitate the efforts to decarbonise all economic and industrial sectors.

  1. Recognise biodiversity protection and ecosystem restoration as a crucial component of climate action

The zero emissions transition cannot happen without substantial investments in the restoration of our ecosystems. This must include efforts to protect and improve the natural capacity of forests and soils to absorb past and present carbon pollution, while promoting sustainable practices, within the EU and beyond our borders.


Time is running out and the urgency to act is crystal clear. Citizens, regional and local authorities, financial institutions, businesses, and other stakeholders are mobilising and acting at their level in every possible way to call for more climate action.

Now, more than ever, we look to our governments to govern, to set the necessary rules, targets, policies and measures to protect citizens in the EU and elsewhere from the negative impacts of climate change, and reap the full social, economic and environmental benefits of the transition.

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Large Group of European Stakeholders Calls for Immediate Action in Face of Climate Emergency

In an unprecedented Climate Action Call published today, a broad and diverse coalition representing hundreds of cities, businesses, investors, scientists, faith groups and civil society organisations, including climate, human rights, litigation, citizens’ mobilization and sports groups urge European leaders to take decisive action to respond to the climate emergency and profoundly alter the way we run our societies and economies to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C
The Climate Action Call comes prior to the EU Heads of State and Government debate on the Future of Europe at the Sibiu summit on 9 May, and the European elections between 23 and 26 May. Climate change is expected to be a central issue in both the Future of Europe and elections debates, as it has climbed up on the priority list of European citizens, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets to demand stronger action from politicians.
Signatories of the Climate Action Call believe that to respond to the public mobilization, current EU leaders and candidates in the elections need to publicly commit to make climate action a top priority for Europe during both the Future of Europe and elections debates. The Climate Action Call spells out five specific steps the new European Parliament, the new European Commission and all EU Member State governments need to take to act on climate change:

1. Commit to accelerate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reach net zero emissions as soon as possible.

2. Plan the end of the use of fossil fuels and provide strong support to energy efficiency, renewable energy and emission cuts outside the energy sector.

3. Safeguard a just and fair transition and ensure that the EU increases its support to developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

4. Increase efforts to roll out the circular economy and increase resource efficiency.

5. Recognise biodiversity protection and ecosystem restoration as a crucial component of climate action.

The signatories include some of Europe’s largest city networks, most influential business groups, leading investors organisations , well-known European research institutes, and largest European NGO coalition on climate and energy.

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EU-ASE Manifesto 2019

Ahead of the upcoming May elections for the new European Parliament and new Commission, the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) has published a manifesto underlining the key role Energy Efficiency has to play across EU policies in the next electoral cycle.  

For the new Parliament’s legislature, citizens want politicians who address their real concerns and policies that make a real difference – policies that will create jobs throughout the economy, and improve the lives and health of all people across the EU, every day. We count on the newly elected institutions to determine whether the European Union can indeed make our economies and societies climate-proof by bringing about a smart and efficient energy transition that leaves no one behind.

For this, we count on newly elected MEPs to reap out the social, economic, and environmental benefits of energy efficiency.

We count on you to:

  • Prioritise Energy Efficiency to reach climate neutrality by 2050
  • Ensure a fair economic assessment of energy investments
  • Reap the multiple benefits of energy efficiency across sectors


Make it right for your voters – become an Energy Efficiency champion

EU-ASE Response to EIB Public Consultation on Energy Lending Policy

The European Investment Bank (EIB) ran an open consultation about its Energy Lending Policy. In what regards energy efficiency, the consultation proposed three different questions that you can see here. The EIB, as the European Union (EU) Bank, plays a significant role in financing energy infrastructure. The Bank’s current approach towards supporting the energy sector is set out in its Energy Lending Criteria (ELC). These were adopted six years ago, in the context of Europe’s 2020 targets.

EU-ASE members were encouraged to provide their feedback with examples of energy efficiency projects that benefited the EIB financing.


Within the broad areas of renewables, energy efficiency and energy grids, are there particular areas where you feel the Bank could have higher impact?

The European Union has estimated that to meet its 2030 climate and energy targets, around €180 billion would be required every year until 2030  in extra investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transport. This figure needs to be further revised given that it uses a 2016 reference scenario and only a 30% energy efficiency and renewable energy targets for 2030, instead of the recently agreed targets of 32.5% and 32% respectively. Together these revised targets would lead to 45% GHG emission reduction target, which is still below the required reduction pathway to achieve the Paris Agreement objective.

According to the IEA modelling, energy efficiency makes the largest contribution to global emissions reduction and in the EU, energy efficiency can deliver 76% of the emission reduction required to achieve the Paris Agreement commitments.

Thus the EIB should invest more in energy efficiency projects across  all economic sectors, and focus particularly on those with high potential for energy use reduction, such as buildings. Building renovation projects, intended for both energy savings and buildings’ integration into a connected energy, storage, digital and transport system, deserve specific attention, as it is here that the EIB lending could have the highest impact, contributing to fill an estimated investment gap of 130 billion/year by 2030.

In order to increase investments in energy efficiency projects and promote the integration of the Energy Efficiency First principle.

The EIB should:

  • Fully apply the Energy Efficiency First principle and ask project promoters to embed the principle to first assess the economic opportunity to reduce energy consumption through cost effective energy efficiency solutions before investing in new sustainable supply capacities;
  • To do so, change its project appraisal guidance, to make sure economic appraisals systematically consider “do something (else)” counterfactual scenarios;
  • Further develop programmes that provide technical assistance for energy efficiency projects (e.g. upscale the Elena funding).


How can EIB reinforce its impact towards ensuring affordability, addressing social and regional disparities and support a just energy transformation?

While the EU is currently defining its vision for a climate neutral future, we are confronted with several challenges that can be addressed thanks to the support from the EIB. The three main challenges  are without a doubt: increased  investment needs in the energy sector, rising energy poverty and growing disparities among European regions.

While over the next decade, energy related investments will have to double, millions of European citizens expect a transition that will tackle the devastating impact of climate change and energy poverty in Europe. Indeed, more than 50 million people across Europe live in energy poverty and are unable to pay their energy bills. The energy transition provides us with a concrete opportunity to alleviate energy poverty in Europe if, across all sectors, ambitious measures to increase the rate of energy efficiency improvement are put in place.

The EIB energy lending policy can significantly help to address this problem and lead the way to a sustainable future for the good of citizens, businesses and the environment by making energy efficiency first an imperative principle of its investments decisions.

In order to support a just transition and help low-income Member States and their regions that might face a more difficult path to decarbonize their economy, the EIB should provide assistance for developing transition plans that consider the specific needs of areas where the economy is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. The investment outlay necessary to decarbonize the energy sector in these areas is significant, and the EIB should think of ad hoc instruments and financial support for Member States with GDP per capita below EU average.

To reinforce its impact towards a successful energy transition the EIB should cooperate with national development and commercial banks in each country. The EIB’s instruments should be complementary and work together (rather than compete) with national energy efficiency programmes.


In the case of new buildings, do you have an opinion on the proposed approach to support only buildings that go beyond the mandatory nZEB standard after 2021? What level of ambition should the Bank focus upon, inside and outside the EU?

In Europe, the buildings sector is responsible for around 40% of final energy consumption and nearly 36% of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. 97% of the EU building stock is still in urgent need of an energy efficiency upgrade (cf BPIE). This is why if the EIB wants to achieve real impact it should support new and existing buildings and their deep staged renovation. According to the revised EPBD, each Member State needs to establish a national long-term renovation strategy to support the renovation of residential and non-residential buildings, into highly energy efficient and decarbonized building stock by 2050, facilitating the transformation of existing buildings into nearly zero energy buildings (nZEB).

We also suggest exploring the possibility of creating a financing framework that would help Member States achieve highly efficient and decarbonized building stock by 2050 and to enhance smart technologies and technical building systems.  In this way the EIB would properly contribute to the financing of the kind of infrastructure that will be needed as part of the future smart and energy efficient system.


The Bank has developed a number of financial and technical assistance products to help promote energy efficiency in private and public buildings. Have you had any experience with these products? If so, do you have a comment or opinion as to how they can be further developed or improved?  

We often hear that EIB’s lending is not accessible for many local authorities, in particular for smaller and medium-sized municipalities, due to the fact the application process  demand high investment and significant human and technical resources. This limits the access to financial and technical support for energy efficiency projects in a large number of smaller and medium-sized cities.

Regarding the technical assistance (in particular the ELENA mechanism), the simplification of application procedures should be considered, especially when it comes to enabling partnerships between public and private sector for buildings renovation projects. Public-private cooperation should be promoted to ensure the needed technical assistance for municipalities.

The EIB has the potential to play a key role in supporting Member States in the development and promotion of the Energy Performance Contracting model for comprehensive public building renovation. EIB’s lending for energy efficiency should be aimed to maximise the opportunities offered by the recent revision of the accounting rules for public building renovation under Energy Performance Contracting (EPC). In addition, to further increase the uptake of EPCs, the EIB should facilitate the combination of EPCs and ESIF funds and provide specialised technical advisory for municipalities.


 In light of the long-term nature of the network development plans, which type of projects should the Bank focus upon? In addition to PCIs, should the Bank prioritise newer investment types, for instance in digital technologies?

The bank should focus only on sustainable projects, the ones that will not be detrimental to the Paris Agreement. The role of the EIB should be to accelerate and deepen the energy transition, not to slow it down by continued investments in new fossil fuels  infrastructure with long-term lock-in effects.

Therefore, we support a revision of the TEN-E regulation, as included in the deal that was reached early March, between the European Parliament and Council on the Connecting Europe Facility. The aim should be to align the TEN-E Regulation (and the subsequent Projects of Common Interest, PCIs) with the Paris climate agreement. Awaiting that revision, the EIB should abstain from automatically supporting PCIs projects, since other assessments are needed to ensure that all EIB-supported projects are in line with the Paris Agreement. This is all the more important that funds could be rerouted towards investments in energy efficiency and demand side response, which can have significant security of supply impacts. The current economic appraisal methodology focuses on physical supply disruption of big infrastructure projects, looking at the impact of largest piece of infrastructure not being available. The Bank should adapt this methodology so that the aggregate effect of a large energy efficiency or demand side response programme can be quantified as well.

In addition to PCIs, the EIB shall consider new fields of investments such as Distributed energy systems  (DES) such as high efficiency and low carbon district heating networks and new types/categories of projects, covering for instance the energy efficient renovation of entire neighbourhoods and districts. Local and regional energy transition initiatives should be at the heart of the Bank lending policy as energy transition and effective decarbonisation can only be  adequately constructed and carried out at the level of territories. New digital technologies should also be areas of interest of the bank.


 What is your view on the investment needed in gas infrastructure to meet Europe’s long-term climate and energy policy goals, while completing the internal energy market and ensuring security of supply? What approach could strike the right balance to prevent the economic risk of stranded assets?

The EU needs to be consistent across its public funding and EU policies regarding a clear pathway towards a net zero emission economy. That is needed to provide private investors with the certainty that they can invest in new (clean) technologies, production facilities and the like. Continued investment in fossil fuel projects is inconsistent and incompatible with the Paris Agreement and long-term decarbonisation targets. That means that the EIB should not invest in new fossil fuel infrastructures and by doing so, misuse scarce public resources. Investing in new fossil fuels-based facilities would lock-in investments in technologies of the past for decades to come and lead to the creation of stranded assets. Instead, we need to invest in the future efficient energy systems, which will bring multiple economic, environmental and social benefits.

In addition, and as mentioned above, the EIB should fully apply the Energy First principle and therefore require from projects promoters to systematically assess the economic opportunity to reduce energy consumption first, through cost effective energy efficiency solutions, before investing in any new sustainable supply capacities. In our view, all investment decisions in the field of energy and climate change must be guided by the long term decarbonisation objectives. Faced with the challenge of scarcity, public resources should be spent in the most intelligent, efficient and effective way, paying due attention to aspects such as just transition, and prioritizing areas with the highest economic, societal and environmental value, such as efficient operation of buildings and their comprehensive renovations.

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