The current five-year term of European Parliament has been one for the record books. Decision-makers first set out high-level climate commitments in the EU Green Deal. Next, they updated key regulations to provide details on how EU Member States need to meet those targets and ensure a just transition to a clean, reliable energy future.

Policymakers consistently turned to the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) for policy advice and technical assistance. RAP’s team of experts helped decision-makers understand the complexities of the issues, the impacts their decisions could have and delivered detailed analysis and recommendations. Three key policy areas — power markets, energy efficiency and clean heating, and transportation electrification — benefitted from RAP’s insights and lay the foundation for Europe to meet its 2030 climate commitments.

Power market reform

In response to the gas crisis caused by the Ukraine war, the European Commission proposed changes to the Electricity Market Design. In December 2023, the European Council and Parliament reached a provisional agreement. The proposals now await formal adoption.

As a result of RAP’s technical assistance, the proposals include provisions like improving grid operator governance, transparency about grid hosting capacity and identifying decentralized flexibility as a solution for grid congestion. Commission staff at the Directorate-General for Energy specifically requested RAP’s assistance on Efficiency First and flexibility inclusions. The policy changes will save consumers money and help with the build out of renewable energy and electrification.

Enhanced energy efficiency and clean heating

RAP has long championed the concept of Efficiency First — prioritizing investments in energy efficiency whenever they cost less or deliver more than investing in supply or networks. With updates to two key directives focused on energy efficiency and buildings, European policymakers are putting Efficiency First in their climate policies.  

The updated Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) firmly centers energy efficiency in its suite of climate mitigation policies. Beginning in 2024, the EED includes three significant changes advanced by RAP’s technical assistance:

  • Greater energy efficiency ambition. The annual target for new energy savings from efficiency measures will increase from 1.3% of final energy consumption today to 1.5% in 2026 and 1.9% beginning in 2028. This increase broadly aligns with RAP’s assessment of efficiency’s role in meeting climate targets.
  • Fossil-fuel exclusion. In a first-of-its-kind exclusion, energy savings from new installations of fossil fuel technologies can no longer be counted towards national energy savings targets in EU countries.
  • Energy poverty provisions. Across Member States, about 10% of energy savings must be achieved among prioritized groups. RAP helped draft technical aspects of the EED’s energy poverty provisions and guided Member States on effective implementation. As an advisory member of the Energy Justice Coalition, RAP also informed civil society groups’ input into the revised EED draft.

The cumulative greenhouse gas savings by 2030 resulting from the increased level of efficiency ambition is estimated to be over 300 million metric tons of CO2e. To put this into perspective, that’s more than the annual emissions levels of Spain.

Energy efficiency is the first strategy to reduce household energy burdens in the long term and alleviate energy poverty. The new European climate framework places significantly more focus than ever before on policies to ensure households benefit directly from energy savings through things like home renovation.

Louise Sunderland, RAP Managing Principal

RAP also played a pivotal role in shaping the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The Directive, which has achieved political agreement but is still subject to a final vote in 2024, includes:

  • Minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for all non-residential buildings, with minimum thresholds for the renovation of the worst-performing stock by 2030 and 2033.
  • A residential sector-specific stock improvement trajectory with milestones in 2030, 2035 and beyond.
  • A requirement that renovations focus on the worst-performing housing stock. Although we had hoped for MEPS for homes, RAP’s work contributed significantly to retaining this focus.  
  • An end to subsidies for stand-alone fossil boilers from 2025 and mandatory plans to phase out fossil fuels in heating and cooling by 2040.

By prioritizing energy efficiency measures, policymakers are not only reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also working toward alleviating energy poverty and enhancing the resilience of communities. Through these forward-thinking policies, the European Union is poised to lead the way in building a more efficient and sustainable future.

Smart charging infrastructure

From the idea stage to the draft law, RAP’s technical advice strengthened the first pan-EU charging infrastructure regulation, the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation (AFIR). RAP helped shape the concept of equipping Europe with an essential EV public charging network. The AFIR includes smart charging requirements for public EV charging points — a major policy win. Consumers will benefit from this optimized charging structure that reduces costs and will allow all EV users, even those without home chargers, to access smart charging benefits.

Next five years are critical to meet EU’s climate commitments

As the terms of European Parliament and European Commission come to an end this year, the RAP team is gearing up to help tackle the challenges the new Commission will face. Amongst others, these challenges include how to accelerate renewable generation buildout, phase out fossil gases, integrate economy-wide energy efficiency, increase widespread electrification and address energy poverty.