The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy
In October 2020, the European Commission unveiled its Renovation Wave strategy bringing to the table a basketful of fresh ideas for how to stimulate deep energy renovation of the building stock in the European Union. The strategy was accompanied by an action plan and a number of flanking publications, including on financing and on energy poverty. It brought to an end a long period of intense interaction with stakeholders on what should be included and it was the starting gun for the real concrete actions.
I congratulate the European Commission on its strategy and on the courage it has shown in proposing a forward-looking, broad and coherent strategy. Its overriding objective is to at least double the rate of energy renovation within the EU, taking care to ensure high quality, deep renovations will be the norm and that worst-performing buildings and public buildings are the first segments to be addressed.
Among the striking elements included in the strategy is a commitment to examine the phased introduction of minimum energy performance standards for all types of buildings as part of the now-planned revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) during 2021. This is a particularly welcome development as many stakeholders have realised in recent months that the most effective way to scale up the quality and rate of renovations is to regulate the performance level that must be achieved and to require that performance to be achieved within a fixed timeframe, while ensuring that support, both technical and financial, is available.
The proposal also includes a close look at the energy performance certificate framework with a view to make it more effective, more transparent and more comparable across borders within the EU. The strategy goes even further to suggest that the creation of digital building logbooks provides an opportunity to incorporate all information on a building into one digital place. This would include: the energy performance of the building; the smart-readiness of the building; the renovation roadmap that will capture the full savings potential of the building; and the level(s) categorisation of the building, describing its sustainability characteristics.
This would benefit many stakeholders from the building owner to the local and national authorities. It would facilitate planning and development policies in a way that would allow for easier identification of the best districts or building segments to target in rolling out the needed renovation strategies that will put our building stock on its way to becoming highly energy efficient and decarbonised by 2050.
The strategy goes on to point out the main sources of EU funding that are available for Member States to draw on to finance the deep energy renovation of their buildings. Unfortunately, this part of the strategy is not presented in a way that allows for a full understanding of the types of funding that are available and how best to access them. A first mapping of these funds that begins to decipher the sources and complexity of EU Funding has been prepared by Renovate Europe for REDay2020 (October 27th).
Finally, the strategy recognises the need to boost the availability of technical and project development assistance, pointing out several sources of such help like the very successful European Local Energy Assistance (ELENA) programme that will continue during the next EU Budget period (2021-2027). It also talks about the practical usefulness of one-stop shops (OSS) as centres for independent and reliable advice to building owners and project developers. It will make a commitment to support the establishment of standardised OSS at national, regional and local levels in the short-term.
The accompanying narrative in the strategy recognises the critical role that addressing energy waste in buildings can play in helping the EU to achieve its long-term climate goals and its headline commitment to transform the EU into a climate-neutral economy by 2050. In doing so it also highlights the multiple benefits that many studies have demonstrated will result from ambitious energy renovation programmes. These include the creation of hundreds of thousands of local quality jobs, big improvements in indoor environmental quality leading to greater well-being and health among citizens.
In my opinion, the publication of the Renovation Wave strategy and its accompanying action plan is just the end of the beginning. Stakeholders have reacted positively to the high-level recognition the buildings sector is receiving and rejoices that our voices have been heard. Now the real work will start, and it will be on two levels.
First, more policy-orientated work will be required to engage in a constructive and meaningful way with the legislative revisions that are now planned by a hard-working and committed European Commission. In addition to the revision of the EPBD, mentioned above, 2021 will see several other linked legislative pieces being reviewed. These will include the Energy Efficiency Directive that is expected to significantly raise the EU energy efficiency target for 2030; the Renewable Energy Sources Directive as cleaning the energy supply is crucial to decarbonisation; the Construction Products Regulation; and several other pieces of legislation that will impact on the buildings sector.
The second, arguably more important, piece of work is to motivate the national governments across the EU and the whole construction value chain to take on the challenge of rapidly increasing the rate, ambition and quality of energy renovations. This will involve more than just sourcing financing, extending to a review of how the construction sector is organised, how digitalisation and industrialisation of renovation approaches can help and how to ensure a large, skilled workforce is made ready to carry out the works to the millions of buildings that are targeted by the ambition of the strategy.
On this last point, the renovation sector is very well placed to absorb a large proportion of the workers that have unfortunately lost their jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors as a result of the economic fallout from the ongoing public health crisis. I hope that those workers will be ready to transfer to our sector and engage in the physical transformation of our built environment for the creation of a better future for all—one in which under-performing buildings are permanently made a thing of the past.
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.
The mining and cement industries contribute over 10% of the world’s CO₂ emissions but demand in both industries remains high. It is, therefore, imperative that decarbonisation efforts should be accelerated, argues Thomas Schulz, CEO of engineering firm FLSmidth
The gas package and renovation wave in the European Green Deal raise new opportunities for ending Europe’s dependence on gas. We need to think about what this means for energy poor households, writes Louise Sunderland from the Regulatory Assistance Project
The most sought after building insulation products will not necessarily be the cheapest and most effective, but those manufactured with the lightest carbon footprint
Energy expert Brian Vad Mathiesen from Aalborg University in Denmark describes Vårgårda’s system as a “limousine solution”
The world’s building stock is forecast to double in size by 2050 to house a global population of 11 billion. If climate neutrality is also to be met by this date, the construction industry will have to significantly slash emissions from the materials it uses
California’s policies on the decarbonisation of buildings can become a model of what works in a thriving economy and what measures should be adopted more broadly in the US and beyond
An EU taxonomy to define green investments is expected to enter into force in 2021, but some experts want it to be used immediately to inform stimulus packages aimed at dealing with the social and economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic