Call to Address Europe’s Energy Reliance and Embrace Sustainable Solutions

By Niels Fulgland, MEP (S&D Group – Denmark)

Europe stands at a pivotal moment in its journey towards a sustainable future. As we confront the stark realities of climate change and the urgent need for decarbonization, it becomes increasingly evident that our reliance on outdated technologies and fossil fuels is not only unsustainable, but also compromises European security.


The solution is for the European Union to maximize energy efficiency and rapidly transition to low-carbon renewable energy sources across all economic sectors.


For too long, Europe has been ensnared in a fossil fuel age, complacently assuming that market forces alone would guide us towards sustainability. This laissez-faire approach has failed to deliver the transformative change needed to avert climate catastrophe.

It is imperative that we shift gears and proactively steer investments towards sustainable solutions.


Strong goals getting us ahead

Energy efficiency emerges as a linchpin in achieving our decarbonization goals. Without a concerted effort to reduce energy demand, our ambitions for a carbon-neutral EU by 2050 will remain elusive.


With the Green Deal, we managed to set a robust energy efficiency target alongside decarbonization objectives. As well, ambitious countries managed to shape the discussions at the latest Climate COP28 meeting and agree to double energy efficiency improvements by 2030.


Yet, realizing this vision requires more than just goals; it demands concrete action and substantial investments.

We need EU-wide collaboration to spur innovation and avoid the pitfalls of inter-state competition.

Streamlining permitting processes and creating regulatory frameworks to facilitate experimentation with new technologies are essential steps towards fostering a culture of innovation.


Change is possible. Even fast change is possible. We saw this with the rapid decline in dependency from Russian gas from around 40 % to just around 8 % in 2023, according to numbers from the EU commission.


Europe has the power and determination to move quickly. 


No time for new dependencies

However, amidst this imperative for change, Europe finds itself grappling with new challenges: its heavy reliance on US liquefied natural gas (LNG). This new reliance also poses risks to the EU’s energy security as energy prices can yet again be a victim of geopolitical tumults or US internal affairs.  


The EU’s reliance on US LNG underscores not only the need for strategic diversification of energy sources, but also a strategic shift away from fossil fuels. Away from imports from foreign countries.


While LNG imports have provided a short-term solution to Europe’s energy needs, they also pose geopolitical risks and undermine efforts to achieve energy independence. Europe needs to invest in domestic renewable energy sources and energy efficiency to bolster the EU’s energy security and mitigate reliance on imports.


One solution across all sectors

Energy efficiency stands as a cornerstone of environmental stewardship, offering a pathway towards reducing energy consumption, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigating our overall environmental footprint.

The benefits of promoting energy efficiency extend far beyond environmental considerations, encompassing significant economic and societal advantages as well.


In the Energy Efficiency Directive the energy efficiency first principle was introduces in law for the first time. As Member States will now have to adopt the directive, this principle should be the leading principle across sectors.  


By embracing energy-efficient technologies, practices, and policies, we can unlock a myriad of opportunities to enhance productivity, reduce operational costs, and drive innovation across diverse sectors of the economy.


From industrial manufacturing processes to transportation systems, agricultural practices, commercial buildings, and public infrastructure, the potential for energy efficiency improvements is vast and multifaceted.


A new opportunity for European economy

By equipping the workforce with the technical skills demanded by the green economy, we can ensure a just transition that benefits all. The Green Deal also needs to bridge skill gaps through education and training programs.


The Green Deal and the effort in living up to the EU Climate Law, to the energy efficiency target and the renewables target, we can create a strong and resilient European economy.