Growth in global energy demand has been accompanied by rising political unease as to the security and long-term viability of energy supply. Such concerns are not only being felt by policymakers; every European household has felt the negative effect of rising energy bills.
However, energy security concerns have intensified in recent years: in 2008 crude oil prices almost reached $150 a barrel; in 2009(1) gas supplies in numerous European countries were disrupted due to a Russian–Ukrainian gas dispute; and in 2010 the environmental challenge of oil was graphically illustrated by the world’s largest(2) accidental oil spill, which took place in the Gulf of Mexico.
The challenge of maintaining affordable long-term supplies of energy hits hardest at the individual level. As energy prices rise fuel poverty becomes a greater problem(3). Someone who spends more than 10% of their household income on heating their home is defined as fuel poor.
Improving the energy efficiency of homes and buildings can help to effectively combat Europe’s energy security concerns and limit the environmental degradation associated with the consumption of fossil fuels.
At European level, policymakers need to pursue energy efficiency measures to the full. By doing more to capture the full potential of energy efficient buildings, real economic progress can be made, green collar jobs can be created and environment and social conditions improved. By fully implementing the Energy Efficiency Plan, Europe could begin to resolve its energy security challenge, boost its environment goals and greatly benefit consumers' wallets.