The European Union adopted, in 2015, the framework strategy for the Energy Union. The aim of this strategy is to ensure that Europe has secure, affordable and climate-friendly energy. Achieving these objectives required introducing the so-called “Efficiency First Principle” in the design of our energy policies. The “Efficiency First Principle” is a paradigm shift in the design of any energy system. It requires assessing the potential value of investing in energy savings (those resulting from energy efficiency as well as those resulting from demand response) in all decisions related to developing our energy system. In practice this means investments in energy savings are prioritised whenever they cost less or deliver more than building new supply and networks. In other words, energy savings, which were considered for decades as a hidden fuel, will be given a fair chance to compete on an equal basis with supply side solutions. The aim is to make energy savings the “First Fuel” of Europe starting from 2030. The energy transition from a fossil fuels-based energy system to a clean and secure energy system is one of the biggest challenges we face globally. It is clear that the energy system for the 21st century has to be citizen-oriented, and clean energy has to be affordable for each EU citizen and business. The “Efficiency First Principle” will help achieve all of these outcomes. It can bring down the costs of the energy transition while driving green growth, creating new jobs, reducing imports and improving air quality. It will also boost innovation in technologies, policy design, business models and governance. The Paris Climate Agreement is a historic milestone for the transformation of the global energy system, including the European one. Adopting the “Efficiency First Principle” when designing our energy policies will allow Europe to speed-up this transformation to clean and low-carbon energy future. The “Efficiency First Principle” is key for both the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and the energy transition of the EU energy system. Making the “Efficiency First Principle” a reality requires policy-makers to embed the principle in each policy instrument. Fortuitously, Europe has to revise most of its energy instruments in 2016; there is no better time to start introducing the concept of the “Eficiency First Principle” in our funding decisions and infrastructure planning. The aim is to make the energy transition fair, competitive and sustainable.
The “Efficiency First Principle” and its role in bringing about a forward-looking energy system for the 21st century is not a European luxury. It is a necessity, one we owe globally to Millennials and future generations.
Maroš Šefčovič – Vice-President of the European Commission, in charge of Energy Union.