A new report from the UK’s Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) think tank has called for energy efficiency to be at the core of an EU strategy to improve security of energy supplies.

The document emerges at a time of significantly increased concern over energy supplies given Europe’s dependence on gas imports from Russia and events unfolding in Ukraine.

The IPPR analysis finds that enormous savings are available by moving away from an energy system based on expensive fossil fuel imports, adding that maximising the positive impact of clean investments within Europe will bring significant economic benefits, not least in helping to secure reliable, affordable supply in the face of global tensions.

IPPR proposes a ‘clean energy superfund’, pooled from existing budgets for achieving the low-carbon transition, which could be more closely and clearly aligned with Europe’s overarching energy strategy.

The report says: ‘Analysis for the European Commission has concluded that investing in an energy system that is more efficient and less dependent upon fossil fuels could achieve annual savings in Europe’s fuel bill of over €500 billion. In our view, energy efficiency improvements should therefore be the centrepiece of Europe’s strategy for slashing dependence on imports of Russian gas. We support a new target for improving Europe’s energy efficiency by 35% by 2030, since achieving energy savings on this scale would cut the EU’s gas dependency by a third – equivalent to the proportion of the EU’s gas demand currently met by Russia (EC 2014c). As with renewables, member states should set out what contribution energy efficiency will make to their overarching carbon reduction targets.’

Commenting on the new report, the UK government’s former Climate and Energy Security Envoy, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, said: ‘Recent events in Ukraine and the Middle East have served to highlight the vulnerability of our energy supplies and the political straitjacket that results from our over-dependence on fossil fuel imports from these volatile regions. The quickest and most effective form of energy security is to use less. EU leaders are currently discussing whether to mandate energy efficiency improvements of 30% by 2030; studies show that we can go to 40% without incurring economic penalties.’