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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Energy efficiency for recovery and long term resilience

Over the last months, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of our economic, social and health systems. As national recovery plans will inject an unprecedented amount of finance into the economy, the priority should be clear: we must increase resilience in our society, modernise the economy and change the energy system to make it more sustainable and progressively carbon-free. Energy efficiency plays a key role in this, for a number of reasons.

First, energy savings are paramount for climate mitigation and emissions reduction. Second, energy efficiency is a powerful job creation factor and its value chain is deeply European. Last but not least investing in energy efficiency also means investing in European innovation, especially when it comes to the building sector.

From a legislative point of view, the next months will be crucial to advance energy efficiency with clear and ambitious policies. The Renovation Wave, published last October, started a process that intends to achieve a highly efficient and decarbonised building stock. This can be done mainly through the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, with the ambition to increase the renovation rates to the needed 3% per year and the review of the Energy Efficiency Directive and the operationalisation of the “Energy Efficiency First” principle.

The EU decision makers’ agreement on the Climate Law and on the intermediate 55% emission reduction by 2030 set Europe on the path towards climate neutrality by 2050. It is the right path to stimulate investments and energy efficiency can greatly support this effort.

Harry Verhaar
Chair of the Board of Directors
European Alliance to Save Energy

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