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Energy efficiency policy in Europe: work in progress

Europe has had increasingly more ambitious energy efficiency policies since the oil crises of the 1970s.  Energy security was the paramount concern and understandably.  The need was for long-term policies, such as for energy efficiency, in order to ensure national and Europe-wide energy systems were robust enough to ensure the energy services needed for the economies were available.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, energy efficiency became important for other reasons.  Improved energy efficiency contributed to lowering energy bills and improving industrial output.  It also was used to counteract environmental concerns, first for acid rain and then for climate change.

The European Union (then the Community) became increasingly involved in energy efficiency.  In 1986, Energy Ministers approved an energy strategy to 1995 which called for a reduction of energy intensity of 20 per cent at least, in line with similar progress the previous 10 years.  Evaluations in 1988 and 1990 of progress for the Union's energy strategy showed that the 20 per cent target would fall far short. 

In 1991, the SAVE programme started.  In 1992, the appliance labelling directive came out. See our page on labelling.  And in 1993 the so-called SAVE Directive in 1993. 

SAVE stands for Specific Actions for Vigorous Energy Efficiency.  It was approved by the European Council on October 29, 1991 as one of the three main Union-wide programmes to promote energy efficiency.  The other two programmes, THERMIE and JOULE, are technology-oriented, representing the spectrum from research through to demonstration and dissemination of energy technologies, of which energy efficiency is but one of the technologies promoted.

SAVE's role is intended to be complementary to THERMIE and JOULE, i.e. through legislation and "capacity building/infrastructure" activities, to facilitate and promote the implementation of energy efficiency policies and programmes at the EU and the MS programmes. 

The SAVE Directive (Council Directive 93/76) included the following measures:  energy certification of buildings; billing of heating, air conditioning and hot water costs according to consumption; third-party financing in the public sector; thermal insulation of new buildings; regular inspection of boilers; and energy audits of undertakings with high energy consumption.  This Directive was rescinded in 2006 when the Energy Services Directive was adopted.

Since then there have been a range of initiatives that will be documented on this page in the coming weeks.