The European Commission has presented its Energy Efficiency Action Plan, outlining initiatives to reduce Europe's energy consumption by 20% by 2020.

The plan contains a package of measures covering a wide range of cost-effective energy efficiency initiatives. It calls for actions to make energy appliances, buildings, transport and energy generation more efficient, proposing stringent new energy efficiency standards, promotion of energy services, and specific financing mechanisms to support more energy efficient products.

The plan underlines the importance of minimum energy performance standards for a wide range of appliances and equipment (from household goods such as fridges and air conditioners to industrial pumps and fans), and for buildings and energy services. Minimum performance requirements for new and renovated buildings will be developed. Very low energy consumption buildings (or passive houses) will also be promoted.

In combination with performance ratings and labeling schemes, minimum performance standards represent a powerful tool for removing inefficient products from the market, informing consumers of the most efficient products and transforming the market to make it more energy efficient, the Commission believes.

The plan also emphasizes the considerable potential for reducing losses in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. It proposes targeted instruments to improve the efficiency of both new and existing generation capacity and to reduce transmission and distribution losses.

A comprehensive set of measures for improving energy efficiency in the area of transport has also been put forward. The plan recognizes that energy savings can be achieved, in particular, by ensuring fuel efficiency of cars, developing markets for cleaner vehicles, ensuring proper tire pressure and by improving the efficiency of urban, rail, maritime and aviation transport systems.

The plan also contains a number of additional proposals to raise energy efficiency awareness, such as education and training, and emphasizes the urgent need for energy efficiency issues to be addressed on a global level through international partnerships.

Europeans need to save energy. Europe wastes at least 20% of the energy it uses. By saving energy, Europe will help address climate change, as well as its rising consumption, and its dependence on fossil fuels imported from outside the Union’s borders, said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. Energy efficiency is crucial for Europe: If we take action now, the direct cost of our energy consumption could be reduced by more than E100 billion annually by 2020.

The action plan, which will be implemented over the next six years, comes in response to the urgent call from heads of state and government at the spring European Council this year for a realistic energy efficiency strategy.