ENEFIRST reports and publications will be published over the lifetime of the project.

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This is the final report of the enefirst project. It highlights the main lessons learned as well as the recommendations for operationalising EE1st at national level.

Introducing EE1st as an overarching principle is not sufficient to secure its execution: its implementation needs to be carefully planned. Adjustments to decision-making, governance structures and the right incentives in investment frameworks need to be introduced across all areas, including in building policies, the power sector, climate action, governance systems, etc. Implementing EE1st is not necessarily about adopting new policies: it is firstly about ensuring that the existing policies and regulations are in line with the EE1st principle.

National and local specificities, including complex governance structures, must be taken into consideration to avoid unsuitable ‘one-fits-all’ approaches that will not grasp and address the complexity of a system originally designed to serve different needs and secure supply first. Whatever the governance structure in the country, a clear definition of the main roles according to the jurisdiction levels is essential to enable cooperation, and thereby bring about integrated approaches.

This report summarises the ENEFIRST outputs, and the monitoring of the stakeholder engagement.
The report starts by providing an overview of the ENEFIRST outputs that form a coherent set of resources. ENEFIRST outputs have enabled a variety of knowledge and resources to be extracted such as implementation maps, guidelines for integrated approaches, the Scenario Explorer and Report on quantifying Energy Efficiency First in EU Scenarios, Recommendations on how to operationalise EE1st implementation in the EU, An in-depth analysis of how to implement the EE1st principle in Germany, Hungary, Spain and more!
This report also gathers information on the main stakeholder consultation activities and ensures there was a proper measurement of intangible results along the project.
Finally, the report highlights testimonies and feedback on the project from the stakeholders and experts who took part in the ENEFIRST activities and contributed to making the ENEFIRST outputs as useful and relevant as possible, by integrating stakeholders’ and experts’ views. Two outstanding points from their feedback are that ENEFIRST provided an ideal platform to discuss why and how EE1st can be implemented in practice, that the project provided a coherent and broad understanding of the principle from conceptual level to policy implications.
This was particularly timely in view of the update of the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) due by Member States in June 2023 (draft) and June 2024 (final). The process of the NECPs is indeed a major opportunity for getting EE1st further integrated in the strategy, planning and policies of Member States.

Putting the Energy Efficiency First (EE1st) principle into practice requires quantitative evidence on the extent to which demand-side resources (e.g. building retrofits) in various contexts can be preferable over supply-side resources (e.g. networks). These contexts range from municipal heat planning, to electricity network investment and the development of high-level policy strategies for Member States and the European Union (EU) at large.

In previous quantitative research, the ENEFIRST project demonstrated with EU scenarios for the EU building sector that end-use energy efficiency measures can effectively reduce the need for energy supply infrastructures in transitioning to net-zero emission levels, while also bringing a variety of co-benefits or multiple impacts.

The present report provides additional quantitative evidence on EE1st by investigating five model-based case studies. The scope of these case studies is deliberately narrower compared with the EU-wide analysis, providing opportunity for a detailed evaluation of demand- and supply-side resource options in different contexts of building types (residential, non-residential), infrastructures (electricity, district heating, gas) and local conditions (weather, costs, etc.):

Case #1: Cumulated energy savings based on cost-optimal analysis, what can we learn about optimal building stock decarbonization strategies.

Case #2: The role of district heating solutions towards deep retrofitting of buildings in different urban settlements structures.

Case #3: Heat pumps, efficiency, CO2 emissions and the value of flexible heat pumps.

Case #4: Strategic energy planning in commercial areas, balancing local heat supply with building retrofit measures.

Case #5: The trade-off between energy efficient household appliances and new electricity generation.

Implementing the EE1st principle has proved to be a difficult task for Member States, at least partly because EE1st is still a relatively new concept. This report provides a set of recommendations for Member States (MS) to support the implementation of EE1st in their policies. The analysis builds on previous work done in the ENEFIRST project, where policy approaches for each main policy area (buildings, the power sector, district heating) were analysed in detail (ENEFIRST, 2021a and 2021b), providing the basis for guidelines for integrated approaches (ENEFIRST, 2021c). It takes the lessons learnt from the analysis of three countries (Germany, Hungary and Spain) and translates them into recommendations that are applicable to all MS.  

The ENEFIRST project contributed to provide policy makers, stakeholders, researchers and analysts with resources to make the Energy Efficiency First (EE1st) principle operational. It was focused on buildings and their energy supply (especially the power sector and district heating). The project combined policy analysis and quantitative assessments about the implementation of EE1st, with a process of continuous exchanges with stakeholders.
This booklet gathers the abstracts of the peer-reviewed papers summarizing the main findings from the projects, and submitted to scientific journals (Part 1 of the report) or presented at international conferences (Part 2 of the report).
The full reports presenting all the details of the research done in ENEFIRST can be found at: https://enefirst.eu/reports-findings/

The recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive proposed by the European Commission as part of the Fit-for-55 package (July 2021) clarified in its new Article 3 that the Energy Efficiency First (EE1st) principle should apply to all planning, policy and major investment decisions related to energy systems as well as non-energy sectors that have an impact on energy consumption and energy efficiency. 

Member States provided limited, if any, information in their National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) in 2019-2020 on what EE1st means in their national context and how they plan to operationalise it. EE1st was then a relatively new concept, and implementing it has proved to be a difficult task for Member States. Acknowledging this, the European Commission developed further guidelines for the implementation of EE1st in the energy, end-use, and finance sectors.  

To support the implementation of EE1st in the Member States, this report offers a deepdive analysis of the implementation of EE1st in three different countries: Germany, Hungary, and Spain. Under consideration are the different policy frameworks in these countries, with a focus on buildings and their energy supply (more specifically, power and district heating sectors). The main policies relevant for EE1st implementation, potential, gaps and national specificities are analysed. The policy assessment is based on the combination of literature review and semi-structured interviews. 

Energy Efficiency First (E1st) is now an established principle of EU energy policy. Energy efficiency is one of the five dimensions of the Energy Union. To emphasise the prominent role of energy efficiency, the E1st principle has been embedded in various legislative pieces of the Clean Energy for All package adopted in 2018-2019 (European Commission 2016), especially with an official definition included in the overarching Governance Regulation of the Energy Union ((EU) 2018/1999). 

In line with the approach of the Governance Regulation, the E1st principle is about a more integrated view of the energy systems, considering options on the supply side and demand side with a level playing field. While it might look straightforward at first sight, it requires a paradigm shift to consider more systematically the multiple impacts of investment decisions related to energy systems, as well as multiple timeframes (from short to long term). To address this, there is a clear need of resources to help policy makers and stakeholders walk the talk. 

The ENEFIRST project aims at developing such resources and at showing how the E1st principle can be implemented in practice. We started by analysing the background of the E1st principle and developing a definition that can be used to operationalize the concept. The next step was to review 16 “real-life” examples where the E1st principle, or similar approaches, have been implemented. 

The non-comprehensive collection of examples shows that the benefits from implementing E1st can occur at various scales and time horizons. From short-term flexibility in the energy demand (e.g. with Time-of-Use tariffs or demand response) to long term reductions in GHG emissions by avoiding lock-in effects for energy savings in buildings. From limiting the needs of on-site heat generation (as done with the Fabric first approach developed in Ireland) to avoiding building a new power plant (as done in California). 

This review of examples and a first general analysis of barriers show that implementing E1st goes beyond adapting the frameworks for investment decisions to accommodating demand-side resources. It requires to have a broader view of the possible solutions to meet the energy needs, to break the silos, favour more interactions and coordination among actors of the supply-side and demand-side, and take the entire energy system and its implications on society into account. 

Paper presented at WSED 2021 – click here to view the presentation slides. 

This report set out to provide quantitative evidence on the Energy Efficiency First (EE1st) principle by investigating the level of end-use energy efficiency in the building sector that would provide the greatest benefit for the European Union in transitioning to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Three scenarios are modelled and compared in terms of energy system cost to determine the extent to which society is better off – in pure monetary terms – if end-use energy efficiency in buildings was systematically prioritized over energy supply. 

The report emphasizes that at least moderate levels of energy efficiency in buildings are needed to cost-efficiently achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. Even such relatively moderate levels will have to go much beyond business-as-usual trends. In addition, the study presents ample reason to support higher levels of ambition. Most notably, end-use energy efficiency in buildings reduces the capacities and associated cost of generators, networks, storage and other energy supply technologies. In addition – as demonstrated in a follow-up report – energy efficiency in buildings brings a variety of multiple impacts, including gains in indoor comfort, reductions in local air pollution, and others. 

As a supplement to this report, the ENEFIRST SCENARIO EXPLORER provides detailed model outputs by indicator (e.g., final energy demand) and Member State (e.g., Austria). It also contains an interactive dashboard that allows for a detailed appraisal of the outputs. Note that the SCENARIO EXPLORER does not allow to simulate variants of the scenarios (e.g., with different energy prices) or to perform sensitivity analysis. 

It is frequently argued that taking thorough account of the Energy Efficiency First (EE1st) principle in energy-related investment and policymaking means to incorporate multiple impacts (MI) in the decision-making process to ensure a fair comparison of resource options. However, a theoretical account of how the two concepts fit together is still missing. Moreover, there is an ongoing lack of quantitative evidence on individual MI. The objective of this report is twofold. First, based on an expert workshop and a literature review, it aims to integrate the state of knowledge on the concepts of EE1st and MI. This concerns the theoretical interlinkages between the two concepts as well as the possible role of different decision-support frameworks (e.g. cost-benefit analysis) and evaluation perspectives. Second, the report provides evidence on the magnitude of selected MI from a model-based assessment for the EE1st principle in the EU-27. Three scenarios are compared for the MI of air pollution and indoor comfort. We find that factoring in MI certainly affects the trade-off between demand-side and supply-side resources, making it critical to include them in model-based assessments in the scope of EE1st. 

Implementing Energy Efficiency First requires looking at the entire energy system and using an integrated approach for energy planning and investment. This means considering jointly the possible evolutions in the energy demand and supply to find the optimal balance which takes into account all societal benefits and risks, with a long-term perspective. Discover how to implement the EE1st principle through an integrated approach with a focus on energy planning and energy-related investments in our new infographic.

For more details about policy guidelines for integrated approaches, see the latest ENEFIRST report.

This report adds a holistic perspective to the concept of Energy Efficiency First (E1st) and provides guidelines to promote integrated approaches for implementing E1st across different policy areas within the energy system.

This contribution aims to break the silos in policymaking and implementation, with a focus on energy planning and investment schemes in the buildings and related energy sectors, where supply-side and demand-side options can be considered jointly to provide long-term benefits to society and the energy system as a whole.

The report also provides a targeted review of the Fit-for-55 package proposed by the Commission in July 2021, analysing the new or revised provisions that can be connected with the implementation of the E1st principle. It is complementary to the Recommendation and guidelines on Energy Efficiency First published by the European Commission in September 2021.

This report presents a methodological concept for a model-based analysis of the E1st principle for the EU-27. It describes the scope and objectives of this modelling approach, the scenarios developed and the models and assumptions used. It also discusses the added value and limitations of the approach. The implementation and results of these scenarios will be presented in subsequent reports of the ENEFIRST project.

The main objective of this energy system analysis is to investigate what level of demand and supply-side resources should be deployed to provide the greatest value to the EU’s society in transitioning to net-zero GHG emissions for the building sector by 2050. On the demand side, the analysis focuses on the resource option of end-use energy efficiency in buildings, investigating the contributions of thermal retrofits, efficient appliances, and other measures towards the net-zero target. On the supply side, the analysis quantifies the possible deployment and costs of various generation, network and storage options for the provision of electricity, district heat and gas products for the building sector.

The approach used is in line with the guidance for quantitative assessments of demand and supply side resources in the context of the Efficiency First principle, previously developed in the project.

The research in this report builds on the report ‘Priority areas for implementing Efficiency First’ which identified policy approaches for implementing the E1st principle in the policy areas of buildings and related energy systems (power sector and district heating) with the potential to be fully implemented across the EU.

This report analyses in three steps the barriers and success factors specific to nine of these policy approaches.

The first step was a systemic identification of barriers and success factors specific to each policy approach (the details of this step can be found in the Annex I).

The main factors hampering and enabling these E1st policies were then discussed in an expert consultation (minutes can be found in Annex II, and the presentation files on the workshop webpage).

The results are visualised in so-called ‘implementation maps’, which summarise the main barriers and possible solutions to the implementation of the E1st concept as well as the related legislative and non-legislative changes required. These implementation maps are presented altogether in this report. They can also be found separately here.

These analyses emphasise that adaptation of EU legislation is needed to overcome (some of) the barriers but that many institutional barriers require interventions by national and local authorities to enable capacity building and additional resources in regulatory agencies and implementing organisations to realise the concepts and policy approaches. The consultation with EU and national experts confirmed that more specific guidance is needed and that the implementation of the E1st principle also requires close cooperation between national and regional levels, especially in the buildings and district heating sectors where most decision-making takes place locally.

This report identifies promising policy approaches as regards Efficiency First (E1st) in several EU policy areas: buildings, power markets/networks, gas markets/networks, district heating, energy efficiency, climate, and EU funds.

The report screened the policy areas and approaches for each policy area by reviewing the EU policy context; conducting interviews and using the examples of existing implementation of the E1st principle; discussing the most important strategic and legislative documents where E1st is relevant. For each policy area, a selection of policy approaches to implement E1st is highlighted.

The objectives of the report are to facilitate the implementation process in Member States and to guide the next steps of the project including more detailed analyses about barriers and success factors specific to the selected policy approaches, as well as the development of policy guidelines.

This report provides modellers and policymakers with guidance on conceptual implications and on existing quantitative approaches for assessing demand and supply side resources in light of the Efficiency First (E1st) principle.

It identifies existing modelling approaches associated with the concept of E1st, distinguishing the normative and exploratory approaches and considering different levels of analysis: national, utility, and buildings. There is no universal model for representing E1st and each model-based assessment is nested in a trade-off between data needs and computational complexity versus robustness and credibility of the model outcomes.

Finally, the report discusses three challenges to modelling the trade-off between demand and supply side resources with respect to the E1st principle: (1) to capture a broad array of multiple impacts and to monetise them, where possible; (2) to apply social discount rates, unless a model aims to simulate actual technology adoption behaviour; (3) to ensure sufficient model detail to represent the true costs of supply-side resources and the value of demand-side flexibility options.”

The ENEFIRST project compiled and characterised a set of 16 case studies about international experiences with implementing the E1st principle. The objective of this report is to systematically assess to what extent the previously international experiences identified are transferable to the political and legal system of the European Union and its Member States.

A targeted literature review provided the basis for the framework to analyse the examples. It suggests that eight of the 16 experiences feature a high level of transferability, seven are found to feature a medium transferability and one is assessed with a low level of transferability.

In conclusion, policymakers in the EU and its Member States can certainly learn from their counterparts to establish a level playing field between demand and supply side resources and thus help embed the E1st principle. However, this reports also points out that embedding the E1st principle in the EU, and truly putting demand side resources on equal footing with supply side infrastructures in all relevant instances, will require a custom set of policy and regulatory instruments that go beyond fragmented international practices.

This report is focused on barriers to implementing “Efficiency First” (E1st) in the EU in several policy areas that are linked to energy use in the buildings sector (such as network codes, renewable energy policy, building regulations and others). These range from legal and regulatory, institutional and organisational capacity-related barriers, which consider the way that energy planning and policy operate including multilevel governance, to economic and social/cultural barriers (in relation to buildings, heating systems, etc.). The scope is deliberately wider than just buildings policy; for example, deciding whether to invest in energy network upgrades or demand-side responses is an application of the E1st principle that also relates to the building sector.

This report reviews examples of policies, regulatory frameworks, utility programmes or other initiatives that have implemented the Efficiency First (E1st) principle in practice. Its objective is to analyse why and how E1st has been implemented, and what lessons can be learned from these experiences. These examples also show policymakers, regulators and energy policy actors in general that the concept of E1st can be implemented and can provide various benefits to the energy transition.

This report reviews the background of this concept and existing definitions in order to draw a definition that can serve as a basis for the ENEFIRST project and its specific objectives, that is, making E1st operational for the building sector and related energy systems.