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The energy challenge is one of the biggest issues facing Europe today. The prospect of sharply rising energy prices and increasing dependence on imports makes our energy supply less reliable, and jeopardises the whole economy. Key decisions have to be taken to slash our emissions and curb climate change. In the coming years huge investment will be needed to make Europe’s energy infrastructure fit for the future.

20-20-20 targets

The aim of EU energy policy is to ensure a safe, secure and sustainable energy supply at affordable prices. The policy is built around the EU's '20-20-20' targets, which have to be met by 2020:

  • 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 levels
  • 20% of energy consumed in the EU from renewable sources
  • 20% improvement in the EU's energy efficiency.

EU leaders have also offered to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30% if other major emitters in both developed and developing countries commit to doing their fair share.

The EU’s long-term goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below 1990 levels by 2050, while at the same time securing supply and maintaining competitiveness.

20% energy savings by 2020

Solar panels on roof © Carofoto

Solar roof panels are an increasingly familiar sight.

Energy efficiency is a central objective for 2020. It is key to achieving our long term energy and climate goals and the most cost-effective way to:

  • reduce emissions
  • improve energy security and competitiveness
  • keep energy costs down.

To increase efficiency, the EU is focusing on public transport and the construction industry, where potential for savings is highest. In addition, smart meters and EU energy labels for household appliances help consumers keep their energy use down.

Free movement of energy

Electricity and gas are transported in grids and pipelines that often cross national borders. The energy policy decisions made by one country inevitably have an impact on other countries.

Ensuring that energy can be freely traded in the EU will help deliver:

  • competitive prices
  • more choice for consumers
  • greater security of supply
  • security for investors in new renewable technologies and infrastructure.
Energy efficiency label © EU

Energy labels help consumers choose products that save energy

A functioning internal market with sufficient transmission and storage infrastructure is the best guarantee of secure supplies, as energy follows the market, and flows to where it is needed. The EU wants national energy markets to be fully integrated by 2014.

Technological shift

Without a technological shift, the EU will not achieve its 2050 ambitions to decarbonise the electricity and transport industries. The Strategic Energy Technology plan sets out a medium term strategy for all sectors.

Development and demonstration projects for the main technologies, such as second generation biofuels and smart grids, must be speeded up. EU researchers and companies need to increase their efforts to remain at the forefront of the booming international market for energy technology, and step up cooperation with non-EU countries in specific technologies.

Strong international partnership

The European energy market is the world’s largest regional market (over 500 million consumers) and largest energy importer. Several of the challenges facing the EU – climate change, access to oil and gas, technology development, energy efficiency – are common to most countries and call for international collaboration.

International energy policy must pursue the common goals of security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability. While relations with producing and transit countries are important, relations with large energy-consuming nations and particularly emerging and developing countries are of growing significance.



Published in February 2013

This publication is part of the 'European Union explained' series




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