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European Union energy ministers on Friday vowed to place energy efficiency at the heart of plans to ease the soaring cost of fossil fuels and help meet the EU's goals on climate change.

"Energy efficiency today is the key, it has to become the absolute priority," French Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo told a press conference, summing up the mood at the first day of an informal meeting.

"We have come to a major turning point."

"It's the issue on which everyone is agreed," said European Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Ministers said they wanted to speed up a range of planned measures proposed by the European Commission to encourage energy-efficient consumer gadgets and lighting, including the replacement of incandescent light-bulbs by long-lasting low-energy substitutes.

They will also ask the Commission to come up with proposals to beef up heating standards in buildings, one of the biggest sources of energy use in Europe, Borloo said.

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