The energy-saving potential of cogeneration is currently under-utilised in the European Union (EU). The purpose of this Directive is to facilitate the installation and operation of electrical cogeneration plants (a technology allowing the production in one process of heat and electricity) in order to save energy and combat climate change.

Directive 2004/8/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 February 2004 on the promotion of cogeneration based on a useful heat demand in the internal energy market and amending Directive 92/42/EEC.

The principle of cogeneration

Cogeneration is a technique allowing the production of both heat and electricity. The heat is in the form of high pressure water vapour or hot water.

An electricity/heat cogeneration plant operates by means of gas turbines or engines. Natural gas is the form of primary energy most commonly used to fuel cogeneration plants. However, renewable energy sources and waste can also be used.

Unlike traditional power stations where exhaust gases are directly evacuated by the chimney, the gases produced by cogeneration are first cooled before being evacuated by the chimney, releasing their energy into a hot water/steam circuit.

Electricity/heat cogeneration installations can achieve energy efficiency levels of around 90%. The development of cogeneration could avoid the emission of some 250 million tonnes in 2020.

Promotion of cogeneration

The objective of this Directive is to establish a transparent common framework to promote and facilitate the installation of cogeneration plants. This overall objective comprises two specific aims:

  • in the short term, the Directive should make it possible to consolidate existing cogeneration installations and promote new plants;
  • in the medium to long term, the Directive should create the necessary framework for high efficiency cogeneration to reduce emissions of CO2 and other substances and to contribute to sustainable development.

There are already examples of regulatory developments in some Member States, such as Belgium (green certificates and cogeneration quotas), Spain (a decree on the sale of cogeneration electricity) or Germany (a law on cogeneration).

The Commission has established harmonised efficiency reference values for separate production of electricity and heat (see under “Related Acts”) and will review these harmonised values for the first time on 21 February 2011, and every four years thereafter, to take account of technological developments and changes in the distribution of energy sources.

Duties of States

Member States must ensure, on the basis of the harmonised efficiency reference values and within six months of their adoption, that the origin of electricity produced from high-efficiency cogeneration can be guaranteed according to objective, transparent and non-discriminatory criteria laid down by each Member State.

Member States must ensure that the guarantee of origin of the electricity enables producers to demonstrate that the electricity they sell is produced from high-efficiency cogeneration.

A guarantee of origin must:

  • specify the lower calorific value of the fuel source from which the electricity was produced, specify the use of the heat generated together with the electricity and the dates and places of production;
  • specify the quantity of electricity from high-efficiency cogeneration that the guarantee represents (this quantity being calculated in accordance with Annex II);
  • specify the primary energy savings calculated in accordance with Annex III based on harmonised efficiency reference values established by the Commission.

Member States must analyse the national potential for the application of high-efficiency cogeneration. Following a request by the Commission at least six months before the due date, Member States must evaluate progress towards increasing the share of high-efficiency cogeneration every four years, as from 21 February 2007.

Member States or the competent bodies designated by the Member States must evaluate the existing legislative and regulatory framework with regard to authorisation procedures. Such evaluation is carried out with a view to:

  • encouraging the design of cogeneration units to match economically justifiable demands for useful heat output and avoiding production of more heat than is useful;
  • reducing the regulatory and non-regulatory barriers to an increase in cogeneration;
  • streamlining and expediting procedures at the appropriate administrative level and
  • ensuring that the rules are objective, transparent and non-discriminatory.

The Commission shall be assisted by a committee.


Cogeneration saves energy and improves security of supply. However, there is still considerable unexploited potential for cogeneration in the Member States. Moreover cogeneration would make it possible to:

  • reduces losses on the electrical grid because cogeneration installations are usually closer to the consumption point;
  • increase competition among electricity producers;
  • set up new enterprises;
  • save energy in isolated or extremely remote areas.


Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Directive 2004/8/EC 21.2.2004 21.2.2006 OJ L 52 of 21.2.2004.


Amending act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 219/2009 20.4.2009 OJ L 87 of 31.3.2009

Successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2004/8/EC have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for information only.



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