Over the last few years, load growth, increases in intermittent generation, declining technology costs and increasing recognition of the importance of customer behaviour in energy markets have brought about a change in the focus of Demand Response (DR) in Europe. The long standing programmes involving large industries, through interruptible tariffs and time of day pricing, have been increasingly complemented by programmes aimed at commercial and residential customer groups. Developments in DR vary substantially across Europe reflecting national conditions and triggered by different sets of policies, programmes and implementation schemes. This paper examines experiences within European countries as well as at European Union (EU) level, with the aim of understanding which factors have facilitated or impeded advances in DR. It describes initiatives, studies and policies of various European countries, with in-depth case studies of the UK, Italy and Spain. It is concluded that while business programmes, technical and economic potentials vary across Europe, there are common reasons as to why coordinated DR policies have been slow to emerge. This is because of the limited knowledge on DR energy saving capacities; high cost estimates for DR technologies and infrastructures; and policies focused on creating the conditions for liberalising the EU energy markets.