The water-energy nexus repowering the EU

The water-energy nexus is the interdependency of water and energy: energy is needed for abstracting, storing, treating or disposing water but also for moving, heating and cooling water across industrial cycles, while water is also heavily used for the generation and transmission of energy. The nexus holds the potential to generate large-scale energy and water savings across sectors and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy use by water and wastewater infrastructure amounts to about 4% global electricity consumption and 3,5% in the European Union (IEA, 2016).

Water utilities can become energy neutral and even energy positive with existing technologies and low costs of investments.

The revision of the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) represents a key opportunity to deliver the transition in the sector. A good way forward would be introducing an energy efficiency target for wastewater treatment plants of a certain size, for example bigger than 10,000 in population equivalent (p.e.). Mandatory energy audits for wastewater treatment operators which include measuring water efficiency could also help advance the energy efficiency of the sector.

This would reinforce and echo new provisions on water and the energy savings obligations for public bodies, currently being negotiated by co-legislators in the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) recast.

Digitalisation in the water sector is an important enabler towards energy neutrality. In wastewater treatment, existing digital solutions can achieve significant energy savings with limited investment needs (no civil engineering or hardware costs) within a short period of time. Intelligent pumps for wastewater management, for example, can save up to 70% energy per utility with 80% inventory reduction, thus lowering costs for utilities.

Saving water, saves energy and saving energy saves water. It is now time to advance energy efficiency and “RePower” the EU through the water-energy nexus!

by Tania Pentcheva
Senior Manager Government and Industry Relations
Xylem Inc.  

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Decarbonising heating and cooling: the time variable

Fossil fuels used for heating and cooling are responsible for 12% of the total EU CO2-equivalent emissions and for 28% of the yearly EU energy consumption. Furthermore, as shown by the latest figures released by the Coolproducts campaign, only about 17.3% of the heating appliances installed in European homes are powered by electricity or use clean technologies.

The EU Copernicus Climate Change Service has demonstrated how close we are to reaching a global warming of 1.5°C, foreseen now for February 2034. In the IPCC Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis report, it is noted that while strong and sustained reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilise. Even with a carbon-neutral planet in 2050, global temperatures would stabilise no earlier than 2070.

Technologies to replace gas, oil and coal boilers have been there for years, manufacturers are ready and consumers are in favour of the switch.

The International Energy Agency’s ‘Net-Zero by 2050’ argues that if the world is to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of this century, no new fossil fuel boilers should be sold from 2025 onwards.

EU decisionmakers should include this ban in forthcoming EU legislation. With the continued installation of fossil fuel boilers in European buildings beyond 2025, the risk that they will still be in place in 2050 is almost certain, thus undermining the  EU climate neutrality goal.


by Sergio Andreis
Director of Kyoto Club  


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It’s time to tap the great potential of digital solutions to decarbonise our buildings

Digital solutions are essential to the rapid decarbonisation of buildings and could contribute significantly to achieving the 1.5°C pathway. Often underestimated, it is now time to embrace this new set of technologies. In other words: crack modern problems with modern solutions. Not only does digital bring significant carbon reduction, but it also comes with very competitive paybacks and shows significant future potential. Digital technologies focus on the actual energy use of building occupants, resulting in faster paybacks, on average less than eight years (for tertiary buildings on average less than five years). Also, digital efficiency solutions bring 20-30 percent carbon abatement across the building stock. But most importantly, this toolbox of digital solutions is already available, quickly deployable, and is applicable across all the current building stock. The potential carbon abatement of digital solutions – around 1 Gt CO2/y (1) – in the building stock is thus highly underestimated.

The EU set itself the ambitious target of becoming the first climate-neutral continent in 2050. To achieve this goal, the penetration of digital efficiency solutions is ultimately inevitable. The real question, given their multiple benefits, is not to qualify the need for such technologies, but how to create the right framework to accelerate their deployment across the board rapidly.


Bertrand Deprez
Vice President EU Government Affairs
Schneider Electric


(1) IEA 2021 Net Zero scenario and under the assumption that 2/3 of the existing stock is still standing by 2050, new build is zero-carbon, all additional electricity demand (for the new stock) is zero-carbon and 100 percent digital technologies penetration.

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To build a sustainable future we need to start from buildings

In Brussels we tend to say that every year is particularly poignant and key. This year it’s true. The European Commission’s milestone Fit For 55 package really is a unique opportunity to thoroughly revisit the European climate and energy policy framework, which in turn will lay the foundation for success – or failure – in meeting the 2030 and 2050 targets at the heart of the EU Green Deal.

A substantial part of the EU’s potential – or obstacle – in meeting its decarbonisation targets – sits in the building stock. Buildings account for 40% of Europe’s energy consumption and 30% of its CO2 emissions. That is why we need a strong recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The building stock in the EU must be transformed to be highly energy efficient and decarbonised before 2050 and unlock substantial other benefits, such as improved health and indoor environmental quality.

A strengthened EPBD must focus more on both new and existing buildings, and of course depart from energy efficiency.

We are far from being on track. To date, the EPBD has mostly focused on the operational energy performance of new buildings whereas progress on existing buildings, i.e., the vast majority of the building stock, has been limited. It follows that a strengthened EPBD must focus more on both new and existing buildings, and of course depart from energy efficiency. An integrated and coherent set of measures at building level will significantly reduce buildings’ overall energy needs, so remaining energy needs can be more readily and cost-effectively supplied via renewables. Ultimately, we need to make sure the building is plugged into the overall energy system, empowering owners and occupiers to better manage their energy consumption and contribute more meaningfully to wider issues such as peak-lopping and demand response.

Stronger EU rules on buildings are key to allow Europe to meet the Paris Agreement, but will also help grow our economies, create jobs, and improve living spaces for citizens. In a word: to build a sustainable future.

Julie Kjestrup
Head of EU Affairs

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Let’s create a new generation of sustainable public buildings

When it comes to public buildings in Europe don’t we deserve the best? Shouldn’t our schools, hospitals, cultural centres and social houses all be role models for sustainable building best practice? Unfortunately, this is not always the case as public buildings are often old and have not been renovated for decades. However, next month’s proposal of revision of the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) offers a great opportunity to transform these buildings into a powerful positive public legacy.

How? By focusing on quantity and quality when it comes to renovation.

First, quantity. The directive calls for 3% of all buildings “owned and occupied” by central government to be renovated every year. Why stop at central buildings? What about all public buildings? Central buildings represent just 4.5% of the EU’s building stock while all public buildings at regional and local levels represent 12%.

Buildings are responsible for 36% of CO2 in Europe, and with the European Union committed to be the first climate neutral continent by 2050 it is vital every opportunity is taken to be as ambitious as possible when it comes to public building renovation.

So, what about quality? The EED highlights the ‘exemplary’ role of public building renovation. And this is absolutely right. Our public buildings should be exemplary renovation role models for low carbon emissions. In other words, the revision should stress deep renovation to the highest possible energy class.

The EED is a unique opportunity to create the public buildings we all deserve and boost energy savings across the EU. We must be ambitious.

Katarzyna Wardal
EU Public Affairs Manager
Knauf Insulation

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