Efficient energy use, sometimes simply called energy efficiency, is the goal to reduce the amount of energy required to provide products and services. For example, insulating a home allows a building to use less heating and cooling energy to achieve and maintain a comfortable temperature. Installing fluorescent lights, LED lights or natural skylights reduces the amount of energy required to attain the same level of illumination compared with using traditional incandescent light bulbs. Improvements in energy efficiency are generally achieved by adopting a more efficient technology or production process or by application of commonly accepted methods to reduce energy losses.
There are many motivations to improve energy efficiency. Reducing energy use reduces energy costs and may result in a financial cost saving to consumers if the energy savings offset any additional costs of implementing an energy efficient technology. Reducing energy use is also seen as a solution to the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world's energy needs in 2050 by one third, and help control global emissions of greenhouse gases.
Energy efficiency and renewable energy are said to be the twin pillars of sustainable energy policy and are high priorities in the sustainable energy hierarchy. In many countries energy efficiency is also seen to have a national security benefit because it can be used to reduce the level of energy imports from foreign countries and may slow down the rate at which domestic energy resources are depleted.
Energy efficiency first principle is the acknowledgment that Europe's biggest domestic energy source is energy efficiency. It was first included in the European Commission’s Energy Union Strategy.
As an organizing principle, “energy efficiency first”, applies to all policy-making and investment decisions and it includes:
ensuring that energy saving solutions are not overlooked or undervalued;
collecting reliable data which will allow to value the long-term economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of energy efficient solutions;
removing barriers preventing energy efficiency improvements;
developing and enforcing concrete policies, which will prioritize investment in energy efficiency.