We must invest today in the buildings of tomorrow

by Bertrand Deprez, EU-ASE Board Vice-chair & Mohammed Chahim, Member of the European Parliament

This op-ed was published on Euractiv


In the COVID-19 aftermath, making our buildings energy efficient is key to reconcile Europe’s climate objectives with rapid economic recovery. To get this done we need an ambitious policy roadmap at EU level.

The European Union is facing a great challenge: how to quickly re-build Europe’s economy in the context of Covid-19 while ensuring to keep itself on the path to become climate neutral by 2050.

Against this background, investing in decarbonising buildings is key to reconcile climate objectives and economic recovery, in a virtuous way. Indeed, the renovation wave is one of the key pillars of the European Green Deal, which should be at the core of the post-COVID-19 recovery plan.

The reasons beyond this are easy to grasp. Buildings are the single largest energy consumer with approximately 40% of EU energy consumption. This value is estimated to go up to 50% if the construction industry and its upstream value chain are included.

Moreover, as urbanisation increases sharply, up to 68% by 2050 versus 55% today, with a multiplication by 2 of existing building stock globally, in Europe, the volume of floor additions could top 20 billion square meters by 2050.

The building sector represents today 7-10% of the workforce in OECD, a major source of employment, hence economic growth and social welfare, with SMEs contributing to more than 70% of the value-added in EU’s building sector. This represents about 18 million direct jobs.

Buildings are where people live and work, and where people spend 95% of their time. Enabling the transition towards buildings of the future could enable new ways to manage energy through local energy communities and ‘prosumers’ (consumers who both consume and produce energy, usually electricity).

Finally, Europe has a lot of strengths in this area, with leading players covering the whole spectrum of the value chain (construction industry, technology providers, utilities, services business, and specialised software companies).

In this context, investing in energy efficiency in buildings is a unique opportunity to realise a “Just transition”. Just transition because contributing to creating local jobs, pulling out low-income people from energy poverty, providing decent and comfortable environments, and on-boarding citizens in a local vision of the energy transition.

Buildings of the future can be at the heart of the green transition in Europe if we manage to combine the principle of energy efficiency first with the deployment of distributed energy resources and the rise of digital technologies. These are the conditions for the ultra-efficient buildings of tomorrow to become the critical pillar of a fully decarbonised energy system.

Achieving that requires adopting a system efficiency approach for our buildings, our urban districts, and our cities. Such an effort would be worthwhile because it could transform our buildings into prosumers and fundamentally change how people, how end-users consume and produce their energy.

For all of that to become a reality, we need an ambitious policy roadmap at EU level that shall focus on three points:

Going for an integrated policy approach based on a combination of regulatory and financial incentives with the objective to make buildings net zero-carbon by 2050 in Europe

Mobilising investment to support the deployment of technologies that are critical to achieve both efficiency (e.g. insultation, district heating, digital tools like BIM, electric vehicles, heat pump, solar panel) and demand-side flexibility to accelerate the integration of buildings into a fully decarbonised energy system.

Scaling-up the renovation rate by making of ‘building renovation’ a strategic value chain and bringing all players of the value chain to work together and develop a marketplace for building renovation at European level

In addition, at the EU level, we need to make the renovation wave initiative one of the strong drivers to stimulate our economies across Europe. In this light, it is key to accelerate energy efficiency in the building space, including by implementing existing rules and adopt new financial and regulatory incentives to promote building renovation.

This would allow building the energy efficient homes and buildings of tomorrow, thus paving the way for both economic recovery and the green transition.

EU-ASE at EE Global 2020 – Global Energy Efficiency Indicator Study Release

On 29 April, EU-ASE president Monica Frassoni spoke at the first in the EE Global 2020 webinar series which focused on the results of Johnson Controls’ 2019 Global Energy Efficiency Indicator survey. The survey tracks current and planned investments, key drivers, and organizational barriers to improving energy efficiency in facilities.

Monica Frassoni provided the European perspective on the survey and contributed to the discussion on how the results can inform the EE community’s actions to accelerate national and global economic recovery.

Among the panellists were Clay Nesler of the Alliance to Save Energy, Jeff Eckel of Hannon Armstrong, Joyce Henry of Natural Resources Canada, and He Ping of Energy Foundation China.

 

The recording of the webinar is available here

The vaccine to future crises is sticking to climate neutrality

by Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE)

This op-ed was published on Foresight


While helping workers and companies survive the current crisis, the European institutions should confirm and accelerate the EU’s path to carbon neutrality by 2050, including fixing emissions reduction targets in line with science.

The effects of Covid-19 affect all of us, citizens, businesses and policymakers, and put us in front of a highly disruptive and unprecedented situation. This emergency is forcing us to quickly find solutions to come out as soon as possible from a standstill that touches all aspects of our lives.

What is even more worrying, however, is that this crisis might not be unique in the upcoming years. Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, it was already well-known that challenges such as climate change, pressure on resources and social inequalities required deep transformations in our ways of producing, consuming, living and moving at every level, from local to global. The current crisis has made this clearer. As we plan the next economic recovery measures, we cannot limit ourselves to repair what has been broken. We must collectively build a more sustainable and resilient society to be able to prevent, or at least limit, damages from future shocks. To do this, common, coordinated action is necessary and the EU’s input and guide are precious.

That is why it is key to resist calls to water-down or postpone the European Green Deal from those arguing that in these difficult times supporting the economy no matter what should be prioritised over preparing our transition to a sustainable society. As an association representing strong, global businesses, we believe this dichotomy is false and counterproductive. On the contrary, the Green Deal is the best available, if not the only, growth strategy for the present and the future.

We will all benefit from the acceleration of investments stemming from the Green Deal and Europe’s drive towards climate neutrality will create opportunities that will help us out of the current economic standstill while preventing the future health, economic and environmental crisis that is likely to happen if we fail to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5°C. By basing economic stimulus plans on energy and resource efficiency, circularity and inclusion, European governments could boost economic recovery and job creation in key sectors such as construction, transport, energy, agriculture and manufacturing.

While helping workers and companies survive the current crisis, the European institutions should confirm and accelerate the EU’s path to carbon neutrality by 2050. A clearer roadmap for 2030 and 2040, fixing adequate targets of emission reductions in line with science, is needed. Moreover, we need an efficient and more easily accessible financial framework to help unlock and direct the enormous amounts of private and public investments that will be available in the next months. Finally, the planned revision and update of existing EU legislation, notably in the energy and circular economy sectors, must not be delayed.

In addition, if we are to build a sustainable, resilient and inclusive EU economy we need to overcome existing barriers. These include the insufficient implementation at national level of current legislation, particularly when it comes to energy efficiency and renewables; cumbersome procedures making green investment and the use of available resources difficult for those which could most benefit from them (such as SMEs, local authorities and communities); and hesitations and delays to realise the much-needed phase out of fossil fuels.

The Green Deal is not yet a given. It still needs to be clearly defined and its implementation faces today unexpected challenges. Still, we believe that business and societies are more and more aware that we cannot simply go back to where we were before. Europe needs a clear direction, sufficient resources and a sound and shared set of rules to move beyond the shock of Covid-19 and prevent future crises. Sticking to the climate neutrality path is the only way allowing to do both.

 

Water is everyone’s business

The European Alliance to Save Energy is one of the undersigned organisations and businesses​ that stand with the 375,000 European citizens who have urged the EU governments and the European Commission to preserve the European Union’s groundbreaking Water Framework Directive in its current form, as advocated by the #ProtectWater campaign.

The Water Framework Directive is the key law to ensuring that freshwater ecosystems in Europe are protected and restored and water is sustainably managed, fully supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

This law has provided a stable regulatory framework and has encouraged collective water stewardship action in river basins across the EU.

The joint statement is signed by:

AquaFed, Aqualia, Compagnie Intercommunale Liégeoise des Eaux, The Coca-Cola Company, Coca-Cola European Partners, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, Dupont Water Solutions, Ecolab, European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE), European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, European Outdoor Conservation Association, Greencore, Grundfos, H&M Group, Heineken, Knauf Insulation, Kyoto Club, NVP Energy Solutions, Suez, Veolia, WAKEcup Global, Water Europe, and Xylem.

 

Read the full statement

EU-ASE response to the Inception Impact Assessment on the Industrial Emissions Directive

European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback to the European Commission’s publication of an inception impact assessment on the revision of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED). 

While we believe the Directive has been responsible for solid progress against identified air and water pollutants, and the BREF process has contributed to identifying Best Available Techniques, in its current form the Directive is not able to contribute toward EU ambitions for climate neutrality. 

Based on this, EU-ASE would like to highlight the following recommendations to support the Commission in its ongoing work on the IED’s revision.

1. Broadening of the scope 

A change in scope is needed so that the IED becomes part of the EU’s arsenal for climate neutrality. The IED should not only look at industrial emissions from a qualitative perspective, instead it should go further and focus on use of resources in industrial manufacturing processes, circular economy and the reuse of resources in to order to have a real impact. 

2. Making the Energy Efficiency BREF mandatory for all sectors 

There is a general consensus that the Energy Efficiency BREF has not been made a priority focus in the past and needs strengthening of the requirements to reduce energy losses. Its implementation needs to be made mandatory for all sectors, taking into account the Energy Efficiency First principle. 

3. Tackling water scarcity and efficiency needs by reducing water consumption 

The issue of water scarcity and efficiency needs to be tackled before it becomes a larger, more critical issue for industry. In Europe, more than 50% of fresh water abstraction is for industrial purposes. While we welcome the inclusion of water reuse in the existing BREFs, the reduction of water consumption has clearly not been a key environmental issue addressed by the BREF technical committees as only 20 BAT conclusions (out of 850 in total) have included water usage reductions or increasing water reuse. 

4. Focusing on the energy-water nexus 

We believe that the IED should give greater priority to water consumption with a focus on reuse under circular economy principles. This should include a focus on water and heat in industrial processes (the “energy-water nexus”) where water efficiency leads to energy savings and emissions reductions.

5. New policy objectives 

We would like to see water efficiency and water reuse in industrial processes, waste water minimisation, and the digitisation of water management in industry become policy objectives of the IED. 

6. Horizontal BREF on water efficiency and reuse 

The Commission could consider developing a horizontal BREF on water efficiency and reuse to mainstream these practices across European industries. 

7. Fit for innovation and new technologies 

The slow incremental nature of the “available techniques” needs to be addressed to better promote innovation, and BREFs require a mechanism to adapt more quickly to rapidly advancing technologies (there is no backwards compatibility). 

8. Encourage behavioral change and incentive mechanism 

The Commission should seize this opportunity to encourage behavioural change amongst industry leaders and provide incentive mechanisms to help them realise the different benefits of water and energy efficiency measures (water, energy, emissions and industrial competitiveness).

 

Download the full response