Higher efficiency + more renewables = lower emissions

Consultations on the European Commission’s Renewable and Efficiency Directives show the complexity behind a simple formula


Publication date

March 2, 2021

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) need to become more ambitious if the EU is to achieve its objective to be climate neutral by 2050 and reduce GHG emissions by 55% by 2030. Energy Cities submitted detailed responses to the European Commission on how the Directives should be revised to ensure citizens are at the forefront of meeting these transformational targets.  

What does Energy Cities advocate?

  • Binding and more ambitious targets at EU and national levels. Two observations: the incentives measures in the directives haven’t been met and the climate neutral objective by 2050 requires higher ambitions. Therefore, we should adopt binding and more ambitious targets in the EED and the RED. We could aim for a broader base and greater depth of building renovation, a higher target for renewable up to more than 40% by 2030 (today 32% by 2030) and enhanced targets for the annual average increase of renewables in heating and cooling and district heating.
  • Development of financial and technical support to the local governments/cities. Local governments, working closely with citizens and energy communities, are in the best place to renovate buildings and increase the share of renewables. Compulsory heating plans can be a good solution when combined with support to local governments to enable them to develop their planning as part of a highly effective neighbourhood approach. To do so, we suggest to:
  • Extend massively programmes such as EU City Facility
  • Reinvest at the local level the revenue from ETS and the unmet emissions reductions targets.
  • Develop One-Stop-Shops to inform and support citizens along the home renovation process.
  • Recognition of the role of energy communities in the promotion of renewables. We advocate for the recognition of the key role of energy communities in a social, equitable and citizen-centred approach to the energy transition. Moreover, it is crucial to support the increasing share of renewables in the energy systems as it is the main source of income that enables energy communities to develop further plans such as renovation ones.
  • The adoption of a circular approach. Energy Cities underlines the need to optimise the local energy flows rather than create new capacity in the system. We need to develop the existing energy sources and solutions such as the use of waste heat from data centres, industry or ports.
  • End the energy taxation and subsidies disparities: the disparity of gas taxation and subsidies compared to electricity is a disincentive in general to electrification and in particular to invest in more efficient technologies based on renewable electricity such as heat pumps or district heating.
  • Energy Efficiency First principle must apply in every spending and policy decisions. It should apply the whole value chain, in particular on the renewable alternatives for heating buildings.

Biggest potential impacts for cities

For local governments and cities, the revision of the directives can have a great impact. Indeed, the Commission could frame an obligation for public authorities to buy only green energy as their purchasing power and high electricity consumption can be a driver for change.

The Commission can also increase the required percentage of renovation of the public building, extend it to the local public buildings (today it is 3% of central government buildings per year) and /or focus on certain buildings such as schools, hospitals or social housing.

The Commission could also decide to enforce national obligations to deliver heat planning at a local level to ensure that the renewable heating and cooling target is achieved. For Energy Cities, this must be coupled with appropriate technical and financial support.

Our concerns

The revision of the directives could be a real opportunity to boost local energy efficiency and renewable initiatives. For this to work, local governments need to be widely supported by national and European funds. Lack of resources is therefore our biggest concern.

We are also concerned that the revision of the RED also encompasses measures regarding the development of biofuels and hydrogen. For Energy Cities, the directive must not treat renewable energies and biofuels or hydrogen in the same way. The priority is therefore to promote the most decarbonated energies and efficient technologies in all the sectors that can be electrified.

The European Commission will present the “Fit for 55 package” in 2021 and the updated Renewable Energy Directive (RED) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), are expected in June 2021. Energy Cities will maintain the political pressure on these issues in the coming months.