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Putting energy efficiency on an equal foot with energy carriers in national energy mix

By Knauf Insulation
November 08, 2023

Energy efficiency contributed 12% to the European Union’s energy mix in 2021, according to the data of the ODYSSEE-MURE project that has monitored energy efficiency indicators and policies in Europe for more than 30 years.

But have you seen these figures before in data about energy in Europe? Probably not.

A new study commissioned by Knauf Insulation and the European Climate Foundation addresses this issue and highlights how the contribution of energy efficiency is essential to the European Union’s energy system but remains absent from main energy mix figures.

The result? Energy efficiency – Europe’s very first fuel - is left out of the equation, which may have implications on policies and investments.

The same can be found at national level: energy savings contributed 12.7% to the energy mix in Germany, 13.6% in France, 14% in Italy, 16.3% in Spain and 10.4% in Poland in 2021. The percentages may be striking, but energy balances and energy publications in these countries ignore these figures.

These findings are featured in the Making Energy Efficiency Visible in the Energy Mix study by the Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy (IEECP) which demonstrates how energy savings can be calculated and better represented to show their critical role in the energy mixes of the European Union and Member States.

putting a spotlight on EUROPE’S FIRST FUEL

Katarzyna Wardal-Szmit, Knauf Insulation’s EU Public Affairs Manager, said: “Energy efficiency is considered the first fuel because there is no cleaner and cheaper energy than the one that has not been consumed.

“However, energy efficiency is consistently absent from energy balances which makes it difficult for energy savings to become part of energy strategies. This study redresses that balance by demonstrating the significant contribution that energy savings make to energy mixes along with energy supply sources.”

Katarzyna Wardal-Szmit

IEECP researcher and consultant Jean-Sébastien Broc, one of the authors of the report, said: “Energy efficiency is not just an explanatory factor for changes in energy consumption: it is a resource helping to meet energy needs while reducing energy supply needs.

“This report is in line with the Energy Efficiency First principle, that aims to ensure energy efficiency is considered on a level playing field with other energy resources such as renewables and fossil fuels. The principle applies to planning, policymaking and investment decisions. In the study, we focused on energy data and how the energy mix or balance is represented, as this is an essential input for planning and policy making.”

“We found that there is already data available to make it possible to factor energy savings into the energy mix. Discussions with experts also highlighted how complementary figures could effectively demonstrate, for example, the important role energy efficiency plays in the reduction of greenhouse emissions or energy imports.”

The findings provide policymakers and market players with the insight they need to change the perspective on energy systems and give energy efficiency the prominence it deserves in cost-effective and sustainable energy strategies, said Jean-Sébastien.


The study examined how the subject of energy efficiency is under-represented in the main energy statistic publications by organisations such as Eurostat, the European Environmental Agency and International Energy Agency as well as in national publications in France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.

The report finds that “the quantitative contribution of energy efficiency to the energy mix is missing in the main pictures of the energy balance” while energy efficiency is often included in “last chapters” or separate reports.  

This means that energy efficiency is not discussed together with the other energy carriers. Current figures make sense to represent energy flows from a supply perspective. However, omitting energy efficiency is as if there would be no option possible to act on energy demand. As energy efficiency is hidden in these key figures, decision-makers see actions possible on the supply-side more easily than the ones on the demand-side. This creates a bias in energy debates. 

Quentin Galland-Jarrett, Knauf Insulation’s Group Public and Regulatory Affairs Director

“The energy efficiency first principle has long been considered the Cinderella of energy policies. Today, solutions and ideas are put forward to truly give energy efficiency the prominence it deserves in European energy policies” outlines Quentin Galland-Jarret, Group Public & Regulatory Affairs Director for Knauf Insulation.

As energy efficiency is eluded from the energy mix, investments in energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, are not necessarily prioritised at national and European level and placed on a level playing field with investments in other energy sources. “Knauf Insulation has a long history of advocating in favor of energy efficiency in the public policy debates. Today’s report once again proves that energy efficiency companies play and can play a greater role in energy policies”, adds Quentin.

Policy roundtable

To shed light on the conclusions of the report, Knauf Insulation, the European Climate Foundation and IEECP held a policy roundtable on 7 November.  The roundtable was structured in two panels.

The first part of the conference brought together the European Commission’s Paula Pinho, Director for Just Transition, Consumers, Energy Security, Efficiency and Innovation at DG ENER; Dr Brian Motherway, Head of Office for Energy Efficiency and Inclusive Transitions at the IEA; two Members of the European Parliament, Niels Fuglsang (S&D, Denmark; member of the ITRE committee, rapporteur for the Energy Efficiency Directive recast) and Petros Kokkalis (The Left - GUE/NGL, Greece; member of the ENVI committee), and Petr Holub, Director General for the Climate Protection Section of the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Environment. All aligned on the opportunity to give energy efficiency a greater prominence in the policy landscape and acknowledged the valuable contribution of the study to further make energy efficiency visible.

In the second panel, the findings of the report were addressed, and next steps discussed between experts. This panel included: Marek Sturc of Eurostat, Didier Bosseboeuf of ADEME/ODYSSEE-MURE and Bérengère Mesqui and Olivier Ribon from France’s Ministry of Ecological Transition.

“The roundtable conclusions and report underline energy efficiency’s significant contribution to the energy mix and demonstrate why it needs to be given the emphasis it deserves. Today begins a new chapter to further put energy efficiency at the heart of energy policies,” concluded Katarzyna.

PA round table


The shares for each energy carrier (including energy savings) are calculated from the final energy that would have been consumed in 2021 in the absence of the energy efficiency improvements achieved from 2007 up to 2021, considering year-to-year changes in energy efficiency indicators.


Image above: Picture from the policy roundtable organized by the European Climate Foundation and IEECP.

Discover the infographics created by the Institute for European Energy and Climate Policy (IEECP) here