What’s new in the EU on Energy Efficiency First (EE1st)? 



Multiple benefits and the Efficiency First principle


The EE1st principle suggests that energy efficiency improvements and other demand-side resources need to be selected whenever they are more cost-effective than equivalent power plants, transmission networks, storage systems, and other supply-side infrastructures. 

The Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action established EE1st primarily as an overarching principle for the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs). This ground was complemented in September 2021 by the Commission Recommendation (EU) 2021/1749 with general guidelines to implement EE1st in main sectors. 

Building on the previous Horizon 2020 Enefirst project, the aim of the follow up LIFE Enefirst Plus is to provide key stakeholders in all Member States with technical support to implement EE1st. The general approach is to complement existing resources to plug EE1st in major decision-making processes. This will be tested with pilot cases in four countries (Croatia, Italy, Greece and Poland). 

The first report of ENEFIRST Plus provides an overview of recent EU policy developments relevant to EE1st, and then analyses the background in the four pilot countries for the first pilot cases. 

Overall, the new provisions from the various pieces of the ‘Fit-for-55’ package strengthen the basis and requirements to implement EE1st and monitor this implementation, especially with Article 3 of the new Energy Efficiency Directive (EED). The new provisions also highlight key areas where EE1st should be systematically considered, such as: 

  • Development plans and investments made by network operators (cf. Article 27 EED); 
  • Comprehensive assessments on heating and cooling, and local heating and cooling plans (cf. Article 25 EED); 
  • National Building Renovation Plans (cf. Article 3 of the new recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive). 

The first set of pilot cases of Enefirst Plus will explore some of these areas: 

  • Transmission network development plan and cost-benefit analysis for transmission grid projects (Croatia); 
  • Heating and cooling plans (Greece); 
  • Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans of municipalities (Italy); 
  • Cooperation between DSOs and prosumers (Poland). 

The preliminary analysis of the policy and legislative background on EE1st in each pilot country shows diverse situations. Similarly, as assessed by the European Commission, the way EE1st has been addressed in the draft updated NECPs often remains in general terms, without clarifying how EE1st would be implemented in practice. The pilot cases of Enefirst Plus therefore offer valuable opportunities to further investigate the potential for implementing EE1st, as well as to improve the related reporting. 

There is a need to change our mindset and emancipate demand-side options when planning energy infrastructure”, said Zsuzsanna Pató (senior advisor at the Regulatory Assistance Project, and lead author of the report). “The legal requirement is there but we see that moving from EU Directives to practical implementation at national level requires front-runners to show how it can be done.” 

Tell us your views on EE1st! 

While publishing this first report, we also launch an online survey for you to share your views on EE1st:  

Your answers are welcome until the end of April 2024.


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