Today, 28% of global carbon dioxide emissions derive from energy use in buildings and by 2050 building energy demand is expected to increase by 30%. At the same time, the Paris climate agreement commits the world to keep the global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. This is an arduous challenge, which requires global cooperation on an unprecedented scale. Progress in the building sector is being made and new buildings can already achieve, as a minimum, nearly zero energy levels, meaning they are extremely energy efficient. Moreover, cost effective solutions exist to ensure that all buildings can contribute to emissions reductions. Significant investment will, however, be needed to reach the targets set in Paris and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the International Energy Agency, the energy intensity per square metre of the building sector needs to improve by 30% by 2030 to meet these climate goals. This will require a near-doubling of the current energy performance of buildings, including in Europe where most buildings are energy inefficient and will still be in use by 2050, and means that nearly zero energy buildings need to become the standard globally within the next decade.
To achieve this will require considerable financing, but the good news is that governments and local authorities in Europe and around the world are increasingly recognising the long-term energy and cost savings to be gained from upfront investment in energy-efficient buildings. Further, buildings have a 70% more cost-efficient abatement potential than any other industrial sector. Over its lifetime, Rockwool technical and building insulation has the potential to save thousands of terawatt-hours of heating energy. Our total production of building insulation globally saves, over its lifetime, the equivalent of 5% of the annual energy consumption in the EU.
And beyond the positive environmental impacts, energy efficiency has many other benefits. It is recognised as one of the most effective long-term measures for reducing energy poverty, thereby making it easier for people to afford to heat their homes. Maroš Šefčovič, the EU energy commissioner, estimates that just a 1% improvement in the energy efficiency of Europe’s building stock could lift seven million people out of energy poverty.
It will also have a huge positive social and economic impact, reducing air pollution, improving thermal comfort, lessening the EU’s dependency on energy imports from outside its borders, and increasing reliability in the energy networks by decreasing demand. The use of a non-combustible insulation product also means a fire-safe home.
The value of these co-benefits is often even higher than the cost of the energy saved and should be given greater attention by decision makers.
ROCKWOOL Group produces stone wool insulation products that provide a unique and lasting combination of thermal protection, sound reduction and protection against fire. The products are made of natural stone together with recycled and upcycled materials from its own and other industries.
Mirella Vitale is a speaker at the Global Energy Efficiency Forum taking place in Copenhagen from May 21-22
Do you have a thoughtful response to the opinion expressed here? Do you have an opinion regarding an aspect of the global energy transition you would like to share with other FORESIGHT readers? If so, please send a short pitch of 200 words and a sentence explaining why you are the right person to deliver this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org
Exciting new technology, equipment and greater political will help boost the image of energy efficiency, a vital tool in reducing emissions, says Jennifer Layke, US-based Global Director of the Energy Programme at the World Resources Institute
The US state of California is setting an example for others to follow on energy saving policies, explains Andrew McAllister, lead commissioner for energy efficiency at the California Energy Commission
Full support for energy efficiency from EU politicians will give companies the confidence to invest in projects that will benefit the economy, the environment and society at large, says Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy
Clear policies and a long-term vision will help energy efficiency play its full role in the energy transition, argues Dominique Ristori, Director-General for Energy at the European Commission
Mark Lister, head of the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency, explains why more innovation and investment is needed if the barriers to scaling up energy efficiency are to be successfully dismantled.