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Making Energy Efficiency First principle operational

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ENEFIRST (Making Energy Efficiency First principle operational)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-07-31

Energy Efficiency First (EE1st) is not just another name for energy efficiency (EE)!

The European Union adopted the EE1st principle in the Clean Energy for All package in 2018. This concept is to prioritize demand-side resources over investments in energy supply infrastructures when as or more cost-effective, acknowledging that EE has multiple benefits.
The recast of the Energy Efficiency Directive clarifies in its new Article 3 that the 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.

Implementing EE1st represents a paradigm shift for policymakers and market actors. It implies to adapt decision paths considering both society’s and investors' perspectives. This means embedding EE1st across energy system models, impact assessments, funding and infrastructure decisions, and all energy and climate policies.
The EU and its Member States must make critical investment decisions about energy systems for the next decades. EE1st is about ensuring that the most beneficial options are not missed, and that today’s decisions will not undermine achievement of long-term climate goals.

ENEFIRST project aimed at making the EE1st principle operational, with a focus on energy uses in buildings and related energy systems, and the objective:
• To define EE1st in practical terms and illustrate how it has been applied already.
• To analyse how EE1st can be applied in key policy areas and to quantify its impacts.
• To develop policy proposals for the implementation of EE1st.

ENEFIRST combined policy analysis and energy systems modelling, together with on-going exchanges with stakeholders.
For a complete overview and summary of the work and main findings from ENEFIRST, see the final report:
The main ENEFIRST reports are also available on Zenodo:

A review of the background of the energy efficiency first (EE1st) principle made possible to set a practical definition, discussed the application of EE1st in key policy areas, and methodological issues for comparing demand-side resources with supply investments:
Then an analysis of ‘real-life’ examples showed how EE1st has already been implemented:
A framework was also developed to analyse the transferability of these examples:
A first review and discussion of the general barriers to EE1st identified what can impede the implementation of EE1st in the EU:

An in-depth analysis of the major policy areas relevant to ENEFIRST helped to identify promising policy approaches for implementing EE1st in these areas:
9 implementation maps summarized the main barriers and success factors for the selected policy approaches:
This was completed with guidelines going further, from sectoral to integrated approaches, with a focus on energy planning and investment schemes. This also included an analysis of the new fit-for-55 package, focusing on provisions relevant to EE1st:
A policy brief summarized key discussions about EE1st for system decarbonization:

ENEFIRST developed as well model-based assessments of the impacts of implementing EE1st, starting with reviewing the possible approaches for quantitative joint assessments of demand and supply side resources:
The ENEFIRST model-based assessment aimed at comparing three EU scenarios meeting carbon neutrality in buildings in 2050 with different levels of ambition for energy efficiency in buildings and the related impacts on the whole EU energy system (assessing total energy system costs):
The results from these 3 EU scenarios provide quantitative evidence that at least moderate levels of energy efficiency in buildings are needed to cost-efficiently achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, which means going much beyond business-as-usual trends:
See also the ENEFIRST SCENARIO EXPLORER to visualize the results in a user-friendly way:!AjI4M7BgBPsshyhDQeJ_E4kgpxFR?e=RE7kHa

ENEFIRST also investigated how the concepts of EE1st and Multiple Impacts (MI) can be integrated, considering different viewpoints (society, public budget, individual investor), and applying this to the 3 EU scenarios to integrate two categories of impacts: air pollution and indoor comfort:

In addition, five model-based case studies at local level provided a detailed evaluation of demand- and supply-side resource options in different contexts of building types, energy infrastructures (and local conditions:

The potential for implementing EE1st in three countries with very different contexts (Germany, Hungary and Spain) was explored
All the findings finally supported the ENEFIRST recommendations, structured along three main umbrella policy recommendations: 1) Invest in capacity building and cross-cutting cooperation, 2) Appoint an authority responsible for the operationalisation of EE1st and 3) Better integrating EE1st in the updates of the NECPs:
ENEFIRST provided policymakers and stakeholders with resources and a discussion forum to take the next step from theory to practice to implement EE1st. Testimonies highlighted that:
• The ENEFIRST guidelines and recommendations have been very well appreciated. Early ENEFIRST findings were also mentioned in the European Commission’s guidelines.
• ENEFIRST provided a forum for experts to exchange their views on EE1st and how it can be implemented, enabling deep dives in the practical details.
• The “real-life” examples were very much welcome and have already been quoted in external scientific publications.
• The stakeholders improved their understanding and knowledge about EE1st, from getting the concept clear until practical recommendations.
• ENEFIRST raised awareness about EE1st among a broad range of stakeholders.
• ENEFIRST enabled to create connections between modelling experts working in distinct fields, which could result in the development of new modelling research.
• Policy experts appreciated the ENEFIRST analyses about how the EE1st is embedded or could be embedded in the various EU frameworks for energy and climate.
ENEFIRST approach