Article - European and International Energy Policy

European energy policy


European Union stars in front of solar panels symbolises the EU's 2030 framework for climate and energy policies; Source: Kleber

© Kleber

European solutions are of the essence when it comes to reconciling the objectives of energy security, competitiveness, and climate change mitigation as the energy transition is progressing. The European climate and energy framework for 2030 and the legislative packages of the European Union for an energy union are of key strategic significance for the future direction of European and national climate and energy policies, and thus for the successful implementation of the energy reforms.

The European Union has set itself the target to bring down greenhouse gas emissions within the EU by at least 40 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. In addition, the share of renewable energy in the EU's final energy consumption is to be increased to 32 per cent while the EU's primary energy consumption is to be reduced by 32.5 per cent compared to a baseline scenario. In order to reach this goal, the European electricity markets are to grow closer together and to be made fit for the growing proportion of intermittent renewable energy across Europe. In addition, the rights and options of final customers in the electricity markets are to be strengthened.

“Clean Energy for All Europeans” package

Together with legislation on climate policy and the gas sector, the “Clean Energy for All Europeans” package forms the framework for the implementation of the Energy Union and the European climate and energy targets up to 2030. The package itself consists of four Directives and four Regulations.

The Federal Government welcomes the adoption of the legislative package. The agreement on ambitious but attainable objectives in combination with robust instruments for their implementation sends out a strong signal for a European energy transition. This will have a key impact on the energy transition in Germany over the next decade.

The revised Renewable Energy Directive

The revised Renewable Energy Directive will provide the EU with a new framework for the funding of renewable energy. The share of renewable energy in final energy consumption within the EU is to increase to at least 32% by 2030. In addition to common funding rules for electricity from renewables, the directive also addresses the heating and transport sectors, which account for two-thirds of energy consumption.

For example, the Member States will need to increase the share of renewable energy they use for heating and cooling by 1.3 percentage points from 2021 onwards. In the transport sector, the marketers of fuels are obliged to increase the share of renewable fuels by 14% by 2030 – largely via the use of new technologies such as electric mobility and power to X (using electricity to generate synthetic fuels). The updated Directive will also restrict the share of first-generation biofuels – biofuels that are produced from food crops.

The revised Energy Efficiency Directive

The revised Energy Efficiency Directive seeks to reduce primary energy consumption within the EU by 32.5% by 2030 compared with a reference scenario. Member States remain at liberty to decide on their indicative contribution towards the EU’s energy efficiency target for 2030. The key instrument for the implementation of the Directive – the energy efficiency obligation – has been strengthened and extended beyond 2020. In this context, real savings of 0.8% a year were agreed for the first time. Up until now, the Member States had to adopt measures to achieve 1.5%; however, there were a large number of exemptions by which countries could reduce this target to below the real rate of 0.8% which has now been agreed.

Governance Regulation

The new Energy Union Governance Regulation provides a new planning and monitoring system for the implementation of the Energy Union's objectives, in particular the EU-2030 energy and climate objectives. It provides that the Member States will adopt Integrated National Energy and Climate Plans (NEPCs) (in German) – modelled upon Germany’s Energy Concept – by 2030, and also develop long-term strategies to cut greenhouse gases and carbon emissions covering the period up until 2050. The final versions of the NECPs must be transmitted to the European Commission by the end of December 2019.

The revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD)

The revision of the Buildings Directive provides for a further development of the long-term renovation strategies currently covered by the Energy Efficiency Directive. In addition, the revision contains provisions permitting new buildings to become better equipped to cope with the future needs and possibilities of energy and transport infrastructure. The Directive anchors an arrangement to promote the creation of the necessary infrastructure for electric mobility: in future, new buildings with more than 10 parking spaces must include conduits to permit the provision of charging infrastructure. Regarding the inspections of heating and air-conditioning systems, there will in future be a further option in addition to the existing possibility of “alternative measures”: the fitting of building automation and control systems. The European Commission will also develop a smartness indicator to assess the technological capability of a building to regulate itself and communicate with the residents and the electricity grid.

New version of the Internal Electricity Market Directive

The new version of the Internal Electricity Market Directive strengthens the rights of consumers and their participation in the electricity market in Europe. Electricity suppliers that have more than 200,000 customers will have to offer flexible electricity tariffs in future. This is of particular interest to consumers who use an intelligent electricity meter ("smart meter"). These consumers can choose a tariff which allows them to purchase electricity at a lower price at certain times during the day and to adjust their consumption patterns accordingly. For example, customers can choose to charge their electric cars at a time when the price for electricity is lowest. For the first time, the new Electricity Market Directive also contains basic rules that facilitate the work of independent aggregators. These are businesses that pool small capacities from different customers and sell them on the market.

New version of the Electricity Market Regulation

The new version of the Electricity Market Regulation stipulates, for example, that interconnectors must be opened to a larger degree for cross-border trade. Under the new Regulation, the capacity levels provided for electricity trading will be incrementally raised until they reach 70%. This is to help boost the pan-European trade in electricity and not least, to make electricity cheaper for consumers. There is also the question of how Member States are to deal with internal bottlenecks in their grids. After all, more cross-border trade in electricity translates into more pressure on the grids. Member States experiencing internal gridlock will be able to decide if they want to split up their electricity market into several bidding zones or whether they prefer to table a plan of action on how they are planning to eliminate instances of gridlock.

In future, security of supply is to be looked at from a cross-border perspective. After all, power plant capacities in neighbouring countries also contribute to security of supply in the Member States. This means that Europe-wide trade in electricity helps to achieve security of supply in a more reliable manner and to reduce the costs associated with it since less power plant capacity is required overall. The necessary action will be underpinned by a European energy security report.

Furthermore, the new version of the Regulation stipulates binding requirements for capacity reserves and capacity markets within Europe. For example, carbon-intensive power plants are excluded from participating in capacity mechanisms.

New version of the ACER Regulation

The national regulatory agencies in the energy sector (in Germany: the Bundesnetzagentur – Federal Network Agency) will in future have a greater say as regards internal decision-making processes at the European Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER). In addition, the Regulation provides for ACER's competencies to be expanded in the future.

Risk-preparedness Regulation for the electricity sector

The new Risk-preparedness Regulation stipulates that Member States initially develop national crisis scenarios which show what risks exist for their national electricity supply. On this basis, Member States must draw up risk-prevention plans detailing national and cross-border action to be taken to prevent and address potential crises.


The agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on the first sub-package comprising the Renewable Energy Directive, the Energy Efficiency Directive, the Governance Regulation and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive entered into force on 24 December 2018. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive had already entered into force on 9 July 2018. The second sub-package comprising the Internal Electricity Market Directive and the Electricity Market Regulation, the ACER Regulation and the Risk-preparedness Regulation entered into force on 5 June 2019. Whereas the Regulations are directly applicable law, the Member States need to translate the Directives of the package into national law in the course of the next few years.

Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2020

On 1 July 2020, Germany took over the six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). Germany is thus holding a key position in terms of the European energy policy and can help to move important policy dossiers forwards.

The German Federal Government is committed to the shared goal of making the EU the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. We aim to combine an ambitious energy and climate policy with a fresh stimulus for growth and innovation. The shift towards a climate-friendly, secure and affordable energy supply opens up economic potential which can make an important contribution towards leading the European economy out of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and developing new, forward-looking areas of growth.

During Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, important conferences and events took place also on energy issues. These included the video conference of energy ministers on 14 December 2020 and an informal video conference of energy ministers on 5-6 October. In addition, a high-level conference on hydrogen was held on 5 October 2020, and a conference on the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan Conference) took place on 23-24 November 2020.

For further information about the economic and energy policy priorities of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy for Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU, please click here. Additional information, including the Federal Government’s Presidency Programme and an overview of all events during the Presidency, can be found on the website of the Federal Government on Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.

State of the Energy Union 2015


19 December 1996


26 June 2003


16 February 2005


14 June 2006


10 January 2007


9 March 2007


13 July 2009


24 October 2014


25 February 2015


12 December 2015


30 November 2016


18 January 2016

The European Parliament and the Council adopt Directive No 96/92/EC putting in place uniform provisions for the internal electricity market (First Internal Electricity Market Directive).

Adoption of the Second Internal Electricity Market Package.

Entry-into-force of the Kyoto Protocols, which had been adopted in 1997 and which set out the first targets on limiting greenhouse gas emissions in the industrialised countries. Introduction of the EU emissions trading scheme.

The European Commission’s Green Paper entitled 'A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive, and Secure Energy’ sets out the three main objectives for EU energy policy.

Publication of the European Commission’s plan of action on energy entitled “An Energy Policy for Europe”.

The European Council, with Germany holding the Presidency at the time, publishes a comprehensive programme for an “integrated EU energy and climate policy”. The three energy and climate targets for 2020 are set and become known as the “20-20-20” targets.

Adoption of the Third Internal Energy Package by the European Parliament and the Council.

Adoption of the Climate and Energy Framework for 2030 by the European Council.

The European Commission tables its Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy.

UN Climate Conference in Paris; adoption of a new international agreement replacing the Kyoto Protocols.

The European Commission presents its legislative package entitled Clean Energy for all Europeans, which sets out detailed proposals for an overhaul of the energy framework, which is to deliver fresh progress towards the energy union and towards implementation of the targets for 2030.

The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative package is adopted.

Further information