Energy efficiency: the invisible powerhouse of Europe

Source: M. (Miguel) Arias Cañete i, published on Wednesday, March 18 2015.

Future growth must be driven with less energy and lower costs, and I am confident that the EU can deliver this new paradigm. That is why I am making #efficiencyfirst my abiding motto.

Throughout history, economic growth has been closely related to the emergence of new energy sources.

The first industrial revolution was led by a shift from wood to coal as an energy source. The second industrial revolution was only possible because of the development of fuel oil, and in the 20th century, nuclear energy and the expansion of renewable energy were the drivers of economic advance. Today, we are immersed in the development of a new cutting-edge energy source that is bringing yet more economic growth: energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is one of the most cost effective means to improve energy security and economic competitiveness, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make energy more affordable for consumers. The benefits of energy efficiency largely outweigh the costs, and that is why I am making #efficiencyfirst my abiding motto.

The European Commission has a long-standing record of innovative measures to improve Europe's energy efficiency.

Thanks to our energy labels and standards for products, consumers save money and EU companies can create €55 billion in extra revenue. This is a clear win-win situation.

By 2020, the result of these labels and standards will be an energy saving roughly equivalent to the annual primary energy consumption of Italy. For consumers, this means a saving of €465 per year on household energy bills.

But our EU energy efficiency policies have a much broader scope. Energy efficiency is a key element of our Energy Union strategy. Having a significant new energy source like energy efficiency can help us gain more energy independence from external suppliers and foster our internal energy market.

Several studies indicate that for every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%. For our industry, energy efficiency means a competitive advantage as it increases energy productivity by producing the same or more with less input.

Between 2001 and 2011 EU companies improved their energy intensity by 19% compared to 9% in the US. This has allowed them to maintain the same level of energy costs per million euro of added value as their US competitors, despite the latter benefiting from much lower energy prices.

It is really difficult to find an alternative energy source that is more environmentally friendly, free from geopolitical risks and that pays off more than energy efficiency.

Well aware of all these benefits, we have adopted a series of measures targeted to help citizens, companies, states, regional and local governments to improve their energy efficiency.

And I am fully determined to protect the rights of consumers to receive easy and free access to information about how much energy they are using, at what time, and at what cost.

I will continue my personal commitment to an energy-efficient continent by improving access to financing for energy efficiency in buildings, providing a strategy to capture efficiency gains through district heating and cooling, making it easier for small business to access finance, and tightening CO2 emission standards for passenger cars and vans post-2020, along with many other initiatives.

Future growth must be driven with less energy and lower costs, and I am confident that the EU can deliver this new paradigm. Energy efficiency can be a boost for the EU at so many levels and I will leave no stone unturned until we make it an essential part of our energy strategy.