UK plays leading role as European Union hits energy efficiency target six years early

A 15% reduction in energy consumption in the UK has spearheaded a continental movement which has seen the European Union (EU) surpass a key energy efficiency target six years early, a new report has revealed.

The European Commission’s (EC) Joint Research Centre (JRC) has published the status of energy consumption across the Member States. The report revealed that the EU-28 lowered the Union’s final energy consumption from 1,133 million tonnes of oil equivalent (mtoe) in 2000 to 1,061 mtoe in 2014. As a result, the EU has passed an indicative target for 2020 which sets maximum energy consumption at 1,086 mtoe.

In total, the EU reduced final energy consumption by 6.35% between 2000 and 2014, which equates to cutting 72 mtoe from the Union’s energy demand. In regards to individual Member States, the UK reduced energy consumption by 15.3% to 129.8 mtoe, which accounts for 12% of the Union’s total consumption.

While the UK’s reduction wasn’t the highest – Greece managed a 16.6% reduction – the fact that it accounts for the third highest consumption rate – behind Germany and France – highlights the vast improvements in energy consumption within the home nations.

The UK’s contribution parallels the recent news that Scotland has exceeded its 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% six years early.

Sector analysis

The report highlights energy consumption trends across residential, tertiary, transport and industry sectors. Private sector industries have been leading the way in the reductions, finalising a 17.6% cut in consumption in the timeframe. The residential sector has slashed consumption by a little under 10%, while transport and services have followed recent worrying trends of slow movement, with rates increasing by 2.2% and 16.5% respectively.

While industrial sector progress looks good on paper, the industrial sector has struggled to recover from the economic crash in 2008, with the report noting the energy-intensive steel and petrochemicals sectors saw consumption fall by 24% and 12% as demand for products falters.

However, movements to enhance sustainable practice within the textiles industry seems to have paid dividends, as final consumption fell by 60% over the last 15 years. As Europe moves towards a more centrally-orientated service-based model, the JRC is predicting that an increase in consumption in the tertiary sector (16.5% since 2000) will continue.

In regards to the transport sector, the report noted that the 2% increase in consumption was due to an increase in road and aviation transport journeys. According to the report, aviation consumption has increased by 14.8%.

EU horizons

While the EU now finds itself under its maximum limit for consumption, it will still need to improve efficiency and climate action further, in order to comply with its remaining Energy Efficiency Directive 2020 targets.

Adopted in 2008, the EU introduced an array of measures that would commit Member States to reducing emissions by 20% between 1990 and 2020, as well as producing 20% of the energy mix from renewable sources and improve energy efficiency by 20%. The maximum consumption target that has just been passed was not a legally binding objective.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie