On September 11, 2012 the European Parliament gave the green light to a new European directive aimed at encouraging efficient use of energy in the EU. In June the negotiators of the various institutions had already reached a political agreement and now, with the official 'yes' from Parliament, nothing stands in the way of the new directive.

This energy efficiency directive should contribute to the objective set by member states in 2007 to reduce European energy consumption by 20% before 2020; this, however, seems unrealistic for the present measures. Nevertheless, with an effective EU-wide implementation of the directive, energy consumption will have decreased by 15% in 2020. According to the Commission, the implementation of the Directive will cost 24 billion Euros annually, but with an annual saving of 44 billion Euros in energy consumption. How the Directive will be financed has not yet been agreed upon.

The changes the Directive entails will have implications for the governments of the member states, but also for energy providers, large enterprises and, to a lesser extent, SMEs. Member states will be required to annually renovate 3% of the heated or cooled buildings used by central government. The aim is to meet the minimum requirements in the field of energy performance, requirements set out in the earlier Directive 2010/31/EU on the energy performance of buildings. In addition, the energy efficiency Directive obliges each member state to draw up a plan to make the entire energy building industry in the country more efficient by 2050. Also, the efforts made by member states who are ahead of the standard will be investigated.

Furthermore, member states are obliged to stimulate small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to produce more energy efficiency. Including through the exchange of best practices between companies from different member states. Large companies, which do not fall under the category of SMEs, are required to undergo an energy audit every four years. This audit should be conducted by a qualified and independent organisation. An exception will be made for companies that have an energy or environmental management system certified by an independent body in accordance with European or international standards. Energy suppliers will be obliged to reduce their energy turnover to industrial and private customers by at least 1.5% per year. With regard to the implementation of the directive in national legislation, there is room for governments to interpret the directive. An advisory committee will be set up but the advice it gives will not be binding. The plan of approach for the building industry will differ by country in 2050, as will the way the government stimulates SMEs to work energy efficiently.

All in all, large investments are expected from companies that make their operations more energy efficient but the national government has to set the right example by renovating public buildings and encouraging businesses to be more energy efficient. More regulation in this field will also provide opportunities for businesses where sustainable investments in the field of energy can eventually be recouped. In addition, the Directive offers room for interpretation, so governments can take tailor made measures for Dutch businesses. From 2014, member states will have to present their national plans in the field of energy efficiency every three years. In this way, greater clarity and detail will be attained as to what the exact legal consequences for Dutch companies will be. With the European Directive for Energy Efficiency, it is clear that a step towards conducting business in a more energy-efficient enterprise has been made.