Energy Efficiency


Driver description
Interactions with the Technology Domain
Interactions within the Social Domain
Interactions with the Economy Domain
Interactions with the Environment Domain
Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Driver description

  • “Energy efficiency is a measure of the overall efficiency of providing energy services, i.e., the efficiency with which energy is produced from primary resources, transformed into useful forms, delivered to end users and consumers.” (Ref: CO_0026)
  • “The efficiency of the transport system as a whole is measured by transport intensities. An important measure of the efficiency of individual transport modes, is their load factors, whilst a first indicator for assessing energy efficiency and externalities is the share of modes with low energy consumption.” (Ref: CO_0298)
  • “Without energy, our society cannot survive or thrive. Yet the European Union today faces a series of tough energy challenges, due to a growing dependence on energy imports, dwindling supplies of fossil fuels and concerns about their impact on climate change. It also continues to waste a fifth of its energy through sheer inefficiency. Energy efficiency is a proven and cost-effective solution.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “New efficient coal technologies and the renovation and modernization of existing inefficient thermal power plants are by far the most important priorities in the short to medium term, as coal will remain a primary energy source of many OECD and developing countries, particularly China and India.” (Ref: CO_2019)
  • “In the EU we have made good progress driving greater energy efficiency into every sector — with new policies, measures and action. Energy labels can today be found on many items ranging from fridges to buildings.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “Improved efficiency in energy use offers one of the greatest opportunities to address energy security, price, and environmental concerns.” (Ref: CO_2019)
  • “(...) it also holds the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% from current levels by 2050. Achieving this target requires a combination of improved fuel efficiency; new types of vehicles, such as battery electric (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); and alternative fuels capable of reaching very-low CO2 emissions per kilometre (e.g. advanced biofuels).” (Ref: CO_0185)
  • “Energy efficiency is high on the EU’s list of priorities, because it contributes to many of the Union’s economic, social and environmental goals. The energy efficiency plan 2011 helps keep them on track by proposing energy efficiency measures across the whole economy.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “Special emphasis will be paid to energy efficiency in the public sector, which is being called on to set a good example to others, as well as industry, transport and consumers.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “Increasing energy efficiency in all transport modes will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions. To this end, European policy and research aims to contribute to developing an appropriate fuel efficiency regulation, which will be set to support research on new technologies and engines, and to promote the market for clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles.” (Ref: CO_0234)

Interactions within the Technology Domain

No particularly relevant interrelationships have been found.

Interactions with the Social Domain

No particularly relevant interrelationships have been found.

Interactions with the Economy Domain

GDP trends

  • “Since 1990, GDP in the EU has grown by about 45 % in real terms, and increased by around 2.1 % per year on average between 1990 and 2008 (ECFIN, 2010). In contrast, primary energy consumption growth over this period was 8 % (Eurostat, 2010b), which, given the GDP increase, represents a substantial improvement in energy efficiency in the production of goods and services.” (Ref: CO_0134)


  • “Further benefits include the creation of new business opportunities and a more innovative and competitive economy, through the development of energy-efficient technologies, products and services.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “Who knew that both unemployment and excessive energy use could be tackled by a single programme? (…) longterm unemployed individuals have been trained as energy-savings advisors.” (Ref: CO_0267)

Regional differences in economics

  • “Several factors explain why these variations in energy consumption levels per unit of economic output are so different amongst countries. Part of the difference reflects variations in energy efficiency. However, it would be misleading to rank energy efficiency performance according to a country’s energy consumption per GDP measured using either PPP or MER.” (Ref: CO_0183)

Availability of public and private resources and investments in the transport sector

  • “By saving energy, we can save money.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “The plan provides guidance for all Europe’s energy efficiency efforts. It injects new impetus into EU efforts to achieve the target of 20 % energy saving by 2020. If we can reach the 20 % target by 2020, everyone will enjoy the benefit of substantial cost savings. Europe could, for example, then reduce its annual energy bill by some EUR 200 billion, which is the equivalent of not using around 370 million tonnes of oil. Per household, this means EUR 1 000 saved every year.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “Financial barriers to energy efficiency measures must come down as quickly as possible, whether they apply to the private or public sectors. With an eye on its 2020 energy and climate goals, the EU is boosting investment in and mobilising the market for energy efficiency through new financial programmes and instruments, innovative partnerships and better use of existing funds.” (Ref: CO_0269)

Energy availability and prices

  • “These findings provide an important policy conclusion — that the changes caused by the oil price shocks in the 1970s and the resulting energy policies did considerably more to control growth in energy demand and reduce CO2 emissions than the energy efficiency and climate policies implemented in the 1990s.” (Ref: CO_0183)
  • “Taken over the whole 40-year period, it is estimated that energy efficiency and the switch to domestically produced low carbon energy sources will reduce the EU's average fuel costs by between € 175 billion and € 320 billion per year.” (Ref: CO_0194)

Interactions with the Environment Domain

Climate change impacts

  • “Accelerating energy efficiency improvements is a crucial challenge for energy and climate policies.” (Ref: CO_0183)
  • “Between 1990 and 2007, CO2 emissions from global electricity production increased by 59% to reach 12 Gt (…). Most of the rise in CO2 emissions was driven by increases in electricity generation from coal. In 2007, coal-fired power plants accounted for 73% of total emissions from the sector, up from a share of 66% in 1990. Total CO2 emissions from natural gas-fired plants are around only 25% of those from coal, despite the fact that they generate nearly half as much electricity. This is due to gas having a lower carbon content than coal per unit of delivered energy, together with the higher average efficiency of gas-fired electricity generation compared to coal plants.” (Ref: CO_0153)
Figure 1‑93 CO2 emissions from global electricity generation

Source: Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 (Ref: CO_0153)

Figure 1‑94 GHG emissions in the EU27 by transport mode

Source: Towards low carbon transport in Europe (Ref: CO_0234)

GHG mitigation

  • “If the EU delivers on its current policies, including its commitment to reach 20% renewables, and achieve 20% energy efficiency by 2020, this would enable the EU to outperform the current 20% emission reduction target and achieve a 25% reduction by 2020. This would require the full implementation of the Energy Efficiency Plan (...) which identifies measures which would be necessary to deliver the energy efficiency target.” (Ref: CO_0194)
  • “By saving energy the EU (…) can reduce carbon emissions and move more swiftly towards its goal of a 20 % reduction in primary energy use by 2020.” (Ref: CO_0269)
  • “Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved by increasing the energy efficiency of transportation equipment.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “Energy efficiency can potentially make the largest contribution to reducing energy use and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over the period to 2050. Historically, improvements in energy efficiency have been one of the most important drivers of reductions in energy intensity. Without the energy efficiency gains achieved in OECD countries over the last 35 years, current energy use would be 63% higher than it is.” (Ref: CO_0154)
  • “The longer the distance travelled per unit of fossil fuel, the more fuel-efficient the transport mode. Thus, an increase in a vehicle’s fuel efficiency will reduce its CO2 emissions.” (Ref: CO_0234)
  • “Global CO2 emissions from (LDV) will fall by roughly 0.2 gigatonnes (Gt) in 2020 and 1.5 Gt in 2050. This excludes savings . (trucks, ships, aircraft, etc.) by estimated achievable amounts (improvement of 30% to 50% efficiency, depending on the mode) yields total savings to the transport sector of approximately 0.5 Gt in 2020 and 3 Gt in 2050.” (Ref: CO_0185)
  • “The developments in the energy sector over the next 30 years depend crucially on the role of some key technologies and fuels on both the demand and the supply side. They act to lower CO2 emissions through a combination of:
    • improvements in energy intensity by e.g. increasing the energy efficiency on the demand and supply side, a substitution of energy-intensive products, and lower demand;
    • switching from fossil fuels to fuels with lower carbon content, e.g. from coal to natural gas;
    • increasing the share of non-fossil fuels and technologies, e.g. renewable energies and nuclear power.” (Ref: CO_1027)

Pollution levels and emissions standards

  • “(...) energy efficiency improvements and other measures that encourage reducing fossil fuel combustion provide general benefits by also reducing emissions of air pollutants.” (Ref: CO_0230)
  • “(...) measures to achieve greater fuel efficiency and carbon intensity will also improve local air quality and that measures to manage demand can have much wider impacts on congestion and safety.” (Ref: CO_0054)
  • “While many resource-efficiency initiatives relate to production, questions regarding consumption are also being addressed. Studies are being carried out on the ‘rebound effect’ – the idea that the introduction of technology and policy instruments intended to improve environmental efficiency might have the unintended side effect of increasing consumption. Home insulation, for example, to make a home more thermally efficient and cheaper to heat, might result in householders leaving the heating on for longer or at a higher temperature, cancelling out the efficiency gains.” (Ref: CO_0243)

Energy availability, production and consumption

  • “By saving energy (…) the EU can enhance the security of its energy supply.” (Ref: CO_0269)

Scarce resources of fossil fuels

  •  “The benefits of more efficient use of energy are well known and include reduced investments in energy infrastructure, lower fossil fuel dependency (...)” (Ref: CO_0183)
  • “We are reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency and developing alternatives.” (Ref: CO_0195)
  • “In the electricity generation sector, if all countries produced electricity at current best practice levels of efficiency then fossil fuel consumption for public electricity generation could be reduced by between 23% and 32%.” (Ref: CO_0183)

Scarce resources of raw materials

  • “The industrial sector is dominated by the production of few major-intensive commodities such as steel, paper, cement, and chemicals. In any given country or region, production of these basic commodities follows the general development of the overall economy.” (Ref: CO_0105)
  • “Greenhouse gas emissions and energy use by industry are still dominated by a relatively small number of basic energy-intense industries (...). The industries are primarily involved in upgrading natural resources to materials used in society and are relatively large emitters of pollutants and greenhouse gasses (...). Material consumption is still increasing and this growth is apparent for “classic” materials (e.g. cement, steel) and for new materials (e. g. plastics, aluminum).” (Ref: CO_0105)

Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Energy efficiency and transport

  • “Transport has the second largest potential (in energy saving).” (Ref: CO_0198)
  • “(...) transport – which accounts for 32% of final energy consumption – is a key area for energy savings.)” (Ref: CO_0198)
  • “The overall energy intensity of freight transport declined by 5% between 1990 and 2005 as reductions in the intensity of individual modes more than offset the increased share of energy-intensive trucking. In the case of trucks, the reduction in the energy intensity of trucking was most strongly influenced by an increase in load factors.” (Ref: CO_0183)
  • “Globally, energy consumption grew most quickly in the transport and service sectors, driven by rising passenger travel and freight transport, and a rapid expansion in the service economy.” (Ref: CO_0183)
  • “According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), transportation energy use is expected to increase 48 percent between 2003 and 2025, despite modest improvements in the efficiency of vehicle engines.” (Ref: CO_4012)
  • “There is an impressive variety of technology options to improve the fuel efficiency of passenger cars: in the next 10 to 15 years it is technically feasible to reduce the specific fuel consumption by more than half while retaining today’s vehicle characteristics. If reductions in power and vehicle size are taken into account, even higher reductions can be achieved.” (Ref: CO_0017)
  • “Energy intensity can be reduced by improving the efficiency of the vehicle drive train, reducing dissipative forces on the vehicle (for example, by improving aerodynamics, reducing vehicle weight, or lowering rolling resistance), changing drivers’ acceptance of smaller vehicles and less powerful engines and driving behavior (reducing “lead-foot” acceleration and deceleration).” (Ref: CO_5046)
  • “The pace of technological change in railway rolling stock is fairly slow because railway rolling stock have long lives. Locomotives are typically rebuilt many times. The relatively slow turnover of both locomotives and freight cars has slowed the penetration of energy-efficient technologies into the railroad system.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “Fuel efficiency standards can be tightened, tyre programmes can be extended to other auxiliary vehicle components, and eco-driving training can be more frequent and widespread. Monitoring and enforcement of existing policies is crucial to ensure full compliance with the measures. There are also other new policies, not recommended by IEA, which warrant consideration.” (Ref: CO_0247)
  • “However, increasing energy efficiency of the transportation system takes time, typically 15 years or more between efficiency gains in new equipment and comparable efficiency gains for the entire fleet of transportation vehicles.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “The transport system of 2030 will at least superficially resemble that of 2010: It will be based on cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships, but these will be much more efficient than today.” (Ref: CO_0284)

Making transport greener

  • “Some modes are generally less CO2-intensive and also more efficient than other modes. For example, rail is less CO2-intensive (more efficient) than air for both freight and passenger movement.” (Ref: CO_0153)
  • “Greenhouse-gas reductions for transport will come from three main sources:
    • Modal shifts in urban short-distance travel and in long-distance travel from, for example, the greater use of high-speed trains.
    • Efficiency improvements from new technologies that allow vehicles to reduce their energy use and from operational changes in truck transport management.
    • Alternative fuels which allow vehicles to emit less CO2-eq per unit of energy used, for example through the use of less carbon-intensive energy sources.” (Ref: CO_0153)
Figure 1‑95 The Newman and Kenworthy hyperbola: Urban density and transport-related energy consumption


Source: Urban transport energy consumption: determinants and strategies for its reduction (Ref: CO_0208)

  • “Enhancing the fuel economy of vehicles and vehicle fleets is the single most important measure to put into action over the next decade to curb fossil fuel use and reduce CO2 emissions within the transport sector.” (Ref: CO_0185)
  • “Green Public Procurement is a powerful market mover for the introduction of new technologies and stimulates procurement of energy-efficient and low-carbon vehicles. This initiative is directed to national, regional and local contracting authorities and contracting entities and operators of public transport services. Directive 2009/33/EC on the Promotion of Clean and Energy Efficient Road Transport Vehicles (EC, 2009c) aims at stimulating broad market introduction of environmentally friendly vehicles. The Directive requires that energy and environmental impacts linked to vehicle operation be incorporated in purchase decisions. These lifetime impacts include vehicle energy consumption, CO2 emissions, and emissions of the regulated pollutants of NOx (Nitorgene Oxide), NMHC (Non-Methane Hydrocarbon) and PM (particulate matter).” (Ref: CO_0234)