2019 was extremely positive for EU-ASE. The Alliance had a key role in securing the inclusion, for the first time, of the Energy Efficiency First principle in the EU regulatory framework. Moreover, EU-ASE contributed to advocating for the European Council’s endorsement of EU climate neutrality by 2050.
Convened by the Executive Director of the IEA in response to the global slowdown of energy efficiency progress, the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency was established in June 2019 at the IEA’s Fourth Annual Global Conference on Energy Efficiency in Dublin, Ireland. The Commission has 23 members and is composed of national leaders, current and former ministers, top business executives and global thought leaders.
With analytical support from the IEA, Global Commission members have examined how progress on energy efficiency can be rapidly accelerated through new and stronger policy action by governments across the globe. It has developed this series of actionable recommendations to support governments in achieving more ambitious action on energy efficiency.
The Global Commission’s work comes at a critical moment in clean energy transitions around the world. Despite energy efficiency’s tremendous potential, the world is struggling to capture its full benefits. Global energy efficiency is not improving quickly enough to offset strong energy demand and CO2 emissions growth. In light of these worrying trends, there is a growing recognition by governments and leaders across the globe that efficiency efforts need to be stepped up.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the energy landscape and the priorities of governments around the world. The Global Commission’s work has been sharply focused on this new reality. Energy efficiency represents a key tool that governments can use to respond to the severe economic, environmental, and social development consequences of the crisis.
This report is focused on barriers to implementing “Efficiency First” (E1st) in the EU in several policy areas that are linked to energy use in the buildings sector (such as network codes, renewable energy policy, building regulations and others).
The Enefirst consortium has released a report identifying persisting barriers to implementing the decision-making principle of efficiency first in energy system planning and policymaking. The report, authored by BPIE, is based on the results of a survey to 45 experts in energy efficiency in buildings, infrastructure, and planning from across Europe.
The main messages from this survey are that:
- Political barriers are the category most frequently mentioned by respondents, suggesting that implementing the E1st principle would be first and foremost a political decision.
- A majority of respondents stressed the lack of expertise, knowledge, awareness or understanding, which suggests that a proactive dissemination of good practices and case studies is important.
- Implementing E1st can work only if every actor understands what it means for them: making E1st a common practice implies making E1st part of everyone’s work.
- Multiple benefits of E1st need to be considered and communicated more effectively among stakeholders, in line with one key element of the E1st principle: using a broader scope in cost-benefit analysis.
- Making E1st a common practice would require a cultural change along the whole chain of actors.
- Cultural barriers are related to actors’ own habits and practices as well as about breaking silo thinking.
- Other barriers specific to E1st relate to possible reasons why supply-side options might be given priority, disregarding demand-side options: these aspects are at the core of the E1st principle and complement the analyses done earlier on the background and definitions of E1st (see ENEFIRST 2020a) by emphasising why we need to think beyond existing energy efficiency policies.
Enshrined in EU legislation since 2018, efficiency first is a decision-making principle that gives priority to demand-side resources whenever they are more cost-effective from a societal perspective than investments in energy infrastructure, and should be applied systematically to energy-related investment planning. To date, it has yet to be effectively implemented systematically.