[109] The most efficient machines ever designed

You could think that the device with the highest energy efficiency is the most difficult to improve. However, this is not always true. Even if the energy efficiency of a device is already high, it can be worth considering further improvements. And because power transformers are nearly continuously loaded, the smallest efficiency gain adds up to a substantial saving at the end of the year.

Lessons to be learned include careful design to develop super-efficient transformers, loading considerations, power quality issues (particularly harmonics), asset management, lifecycle costing in regulated networks, and recycling practices, to name a few.

[89] Efficiency is a carbon solution

There’s always more we can do with energy efficiency, but sometimes it’s good to step back and see what has already been done.

For example, the EU’s drive towards a more energy efficient future has produced benefits such as:

  • New buildings consume half the energy they did in the 1980s.
  • Energy intensity in EU industry decreased by 16% between 2005 and 2014.
  • More efficient appliances are expected to save households about €465 per year on their energy bills by 2020.

[20] Efficiency is a moving target

Europe has made an impressive step forward in energy efficiency over the past years, mainly thanks to policy and regulation. The implementation of #Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives is estimated to save 175 Mtoe primary energy per year by 2020, which corresponds to 19% savings with respect to business-as-usual energy use for those products. Thanks to this, for example on motor efficiency, the EU is now a global front-runner, whereas ten years ago it was still lagging behind the US. But at the same time, the aim should be to realize all energy efficiency measures that are cost-effective from a lifecycle point of view. To achieve this goal, a lot of work still remains to be done.

[6] The elusive definition of zero energy or zero carbon

The term ‘zero energy’ sounds contradictory. We need energy to produce materials, then construct, operate and renovate or demolish buildings. Once a building is occupied, we need energy for heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, and we use electricity for a myriad of other energy services. And there is a temporal dimension – to produce energy at the time when it is needed.

‘Zero energy’ in its current use does not mean ‘compensating all energy uses related to the building, over its entire lifecycle, at the time when energy is needed’.

The term works well as a commercial label. For regulation, it lacks precision.

[1] Europeans increasingly care about the environment

Flash Eurobarometer 256 concluded that Europeans overwhelmingly consider the environmental performance of the products they buy. Consumers want ecolabels they can trust and support differential taxation based on environmental performance.

DG Environment has issued another Flash Eurobarometer 367 on the single market for green products in July 2013. This EB focussed more on price and choice architecture for consumers and confirms consumer interest in environmental performance as well as the importance of transparent labels.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is expanding its successful sustainable product policy into the broader theme of circular economy.