The need for speed | EUSEW 2021

by Harry Verhaar Head of Global Public & Government Affairs and Chairman of the board of the European Alliance to Save Energy.

In this climate-critical decade, Europe is faced with the extraordinary task of drastically improving our environmental impact, while also repairing economies left shaken by the effects of COVID-19. Now is not the time to split our priorities: the actions we take to mitigate climate change and those we take to accelerate economic recovery must work both in harmony and at pace.

Both effectively and economically, energy efficiency improvements are the best strategy at our disposal for a swift reduction in carbon emissions. With buildings accounting for 40% of energy consumed and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the European Commission’s Renovation Wave strategy gives us an excellent foundation on which to start.

Everything that can be done to improve the footprint of our buildings, should be done: insulation, modern heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technology, and digital solutions like building management systems that can monitor and optimise energy expenditure. Among these key improvements, we should not forget one of the quickest wins: lighting. Two-thirds of installed lighting is legacy technology, with 1.3 billion conventional light points across Europe that could be switched to LED. Through this alone, the EU could save around EUR 40 billion and eliminate 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. This quick, simple, and low-cost intervention comes with relatively little disruption to the building’s occupiers, and the payback is fast.

Increasing renovation rate and depth will positively impact economic growth, investments, innovation and competitiveness, and lead to a reduced reliance on fossil fuels, in turn improving Europe’s energy security. And economically, the impact of building renovation will most benefit the local SMEs who make up more than 90% of companies in the building sector. Accelerated activity on this level creates jobs for those with displaced incomes due to the global pandemic.

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Energy Efficiency for a competitive and decarbonised EU economy


The European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) is known to be a leading business voice in a growing, diverse and increasingly well-organised energy efficiency community in Brussels. Since our foundation in 2010, we have helped put energy efficiency high on the agenda of EU decision makers.

Together with other Brussels-based and national stakeholders we developed and promoted the Energy Efficiency First (EE1) principle, which is now a concept used across all the EU institutions and was recently introduced in the European legislative framework. We are convinced that through prompt implementation of EU legislation, together with suitable public and private financing, energy efficiency can play a much bigger role in the transition towards a decarbonised Europe.

Our focus on measuring global success by GDP growth has trapped us in a linear view of society, with carbon increasingly becoming a constraint to current and future improvements in prosperity.

We need to become much smarter and more resource efficient. We need to transition toward an approach in which long term quality of life becomes the most important metric. In this context, overall energy efficiency improvements across all sectors are key to arriving at a climate neutral world by 2050. An energy efficient Europe will foster competitiveness and growth through innovations in a range of sectors, each of these contributing to the prosperity, health and wellbeing of Europe’s citizens.


Harry Verhaar – Chair of the Board of Directors

Moving forward EU-ASE will:

  • Further contribute to policy makers’ and consumers’ understanding of the importance and benefits of energy efficiency
  • Promote the need for a strong EU role in the global fight against climate change
  • Put energy efficiency at the centre of EU and international long-term decarbonisation strategies
  • Make energy efficiency in buildings a strategic priority for addressing energy infrastructure needs
  • Support the development of relevant EU legislation and its swift implementation at national and regional level
  • Improve use of public resources and help design innovative financing schemes, to unlock private investments in cost-effective energy-efficiency programmes across Europe

We must take bold actions to limit global warming. If we want to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, we need to put the energy efficiency first principle at the heart of the transition and of the future energy system. We need to act now, starting from increasing the level of ambition for 2030. People, governments and businesses must work together to fully realise the energy efficiency potential across industrial sectors, regions and cities. This will allow us to reap the tangible social, economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency. Time is running short, we need a shared sense of urgency that will drive better implementation, the adoption of adequate rules, investments and the use of available resources.


Monica Frassoni – President