The European Parliament's Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy held a public hearing on "Energy efficiency - the way forward" in Brussels on 23 April 1996. The purpose of the hearing was to find ways in which effective action could be taken to achieve the policy goals set for the reduction of energy consumption through energy efficiency measures. Since there is general agreement among observers of the energy sector that as much as one fifth of current energy consumption could be saved by sensible and reasonable energy efficiency measures, Parliament is keen to pursue the introduction of specific legislation to achieve this reduction in consumption. The Commission's recent proposal for a Directive introducing rational planning techniques in the electricity and gas distribution sectors formed the backdrop to the hearing. Among those present, there was a clear division between those in support of the Commission's "integrated resource planning" (IRP) proposal, and those against, namely the gas and electricity suppliers. They argued that IRP was already supported by the industry, and that the Commission's proposal would be an unnecessarily bureaucratic approach to the problem. The question of the compatibility of the proposed Directive with the parallel attempt to liberalize gas and electricity markets was also raised. The Committee's rapporteur for the proposed Directive concluded that fears of interventionism on the part of governments or the Commission were unfounded, since the proposed Directive was lightweight in tone. Properly clarified, it would offer energy suppliers and distributors the opportunity to make money by saving energy. The utilities, however, would need a direct incentive, such as the proposed Directive, to take up the IRP techniques. The Parliament is expected to adopt its report on the proposal at its plenary session in July 1996.