Carbon pricing in buildings? Help renovate and switch to renewables first

Including buildings in an emissions trading scheme will have a limited impact on emissions and should, at most, complement other measures like substantially increasing renovation rates, switching to renewables and phasing out fossil fuels subsidies, writes on Euractiv Monica Frassoni, president of the European Alliance to Save Energy.

On 14 July, the European Commission unveiled its long-awaited roadmap to reach the European Union’s higher emissions reduction target for 2030, the so-called “Fit for 55” package.

No wonder it chose the day traditionally celebrating the French revolution as the scope and ambitions of this massive legislative package are considerable. With it, came the proposal of setting up a parallel Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) for road transport and heating fuels, certainly one of the most contentious measures of the package.

According to the Commission, this proposal aims to address the lack of emissions reductions in road transport and buildings, which together account for almost 60% of EU emissions. Over the last few years, emissions from the building sector have not decreased significantly, while those from road transport have even increased.

The need to act fast and with concrete steps to reduce emissions in these sectors is clear. So seems the Commission’s logic behind the proposal: if the ETS brought emissions down in the energy sector, why wouldn’t it be the case for buildings and road transport?

There are a few reasons why carbon pricing in buildings could at best complement, but not replace – and should not distract from – policies and incentives to substantially increase renovation rates, switch to renewables and phase out fossil fuels subsidies.

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The need for speed | Contribution to the EUSEW2021

by Harry Verhaar Head of Global Public & Government Affairs and Chairman of the board of the European Alliance to Save Energy.

In this climate-critical decade, Europe is faced with the extraordinary task of drastically improving our environmental impact, while also repairing economies left shaken by the effects of COVID-19. Now is not the time to split our priorities: the actions we take to mitigate climate change and those we take to accelerate economic recovery must work both in harmony and at pace.

Both effectively and economically, energy efficiency improvements are the best strategy at our disposal for a swift reduction in carbon emissions. With buildings accounting for 40% of energy consumed and 36% of energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the European Commission’s Renovation Wave strategy gives us an excellent foundation on which to start.

Everything that can be done to improve the footprint of our buildings, should be done: insulation, modern heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technology, and digital solutions like building management systems that can monitor and optimise energy expenditure. Among these key improvements, we should not forget one of the quickest wins: lighting. Two-thirds of installed lighting is legacy technology, with 1.3 billion conventional light points across Europe that could be switched to LED. Through this alone, the EU could save around EUR 40 billion and eliminate 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. This quick, simple, and low-cost intervention comes with relatively little disruption to the building’s occupiers, and the payback is fast.

Increasing renovation rate and depth will positively impact economic growth, investments, innovation and competitiveness, and lead to a reduced reliance on fossil fuels, in turn improving Europe’s energy security. And economically, the impact of building renovation will most benefit the local SMEs who make up more than 90% of companies in the building sector. Accelerated activity on this level creates jobs for those with displaced incomes due to the global pandemic.

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Monica Frassoni’s speech at launch of EASAC report “Decarbonisation of buildings for climate, health and jobs”

On 2 June 2021, the president of the European Alliance to Save Energy Monica Frassoni participated in the panel discussion for the launch of the report “Decarbonisation of buildings: for climate, health and jobs” by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC). 

Here are some excerpts from her speech:

  • The holistic approach of the study is great. There is no silver bullet for the decarbonization of buildings. We need several approaches and to enhance the use of existing technologies There is no time to invest in uncertain technologies. Efficiency measures in industry, buildings, appliances and transport already exist and can be put into effect and scaled up very quickly.
  • Energy Efficiency is an existing and certain technology. Energy Efficiency, intended as reducing energy demand and optimising consumption, is recognized but we didn’t notice anywhere in the report the specific reference to make “Energy Efficiency First” principle (EE1) a pillar of the EU future energy system.
  • The EE1 is needed to get all the non-energy related benefits of decarbonizing buildings, to alleviate energy poverty, to correctly size the RES supply required to match buildings residual energy demand, to improve the flexibility of buildings and their capacity to store energy, to phase out fossil fuels and avoid stranded assets as well as increase our energy security); The EE1 is instrumental to energy system integration and finally the principle is a driver for energy, resource/material efficiency and full application of circularity principle.

 

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EU’s climate action does not need fossil distractions

Climate is high on the agenda of this week’s meeting with European Union heads of states and governments. What is not really certain is if the Council will manage to keep a united and determined front ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.

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

The problem the EU faces, as most other developed economies, is that behind climate ambitions and political declarations, the numbers do not add up. Too much time and resources are lost in the attempt to go around a basic reality that only a few days ago was clearly stated with no possibility of misunderstanding in the International Energy Agency’s new report, Net Zero by 2050 Roadmap: we need to stop investing in fossil fuels now.

That includes new gas pipelines, as well as grey and blue hydrogen. We must stop hiding behind the magic word ‘transition’ to prolong our still enormous dependence on natural gas, coal and oil. We need to invest and dedicate the massive amount of public resources that are available at all levels to help all of us to go green: this is no ethical issue. It is a sound economic, social and environmental choice, as it gives a real perspective to our industries and workers to stay competitive and to look to the future with trust. In other words, accelerating the green transformation is a very good news for Europe’s citizens, businesses and the environment.

In December 2020, in light of the EU’s commitment to increase its climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, EU leaders endorsed a common target to reduce the bloc’s net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% compared to 1990-levels by 2030 and confirmed the goal to become the first climate neutral region by 2050. This was a substantial step up from the previous 2030 target of cutting emissions by 40% and can be considered a result of pressure from scientific communities, public opinion and media to raise awareness and the sense of urgency on the major global risk represented by climate change.

 

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New EU buildings rules are crucial to deliver on climate targets

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) must recognise that buildings are a crucial energy infrastructure for Europe, writes Monica Frassoni, president of the European Alliance to Save Energy. By being highly efficient, they can reduce energy demand but also manage, store, and generate renewable energy, she argues.

Through the agreement on the European Climate Law, the European Union and Member States have committed to become a net-zero economy by 2050 and, on the way, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030. Even if science says that the EU should go towards 65% GHG emissions reductions and the European Parliament had asked for 60%, the agreement is a step forward.

But can we deliver? Sure, but we need to be serious and unafraid to take the necessary step to abate emission in key sectors such as buildings.

I am not a number cruncher, but a couple of figures says it all. 75% of the current building stock is not efficient, and most of today’s buildings will still be in use in 30 years. Currently only 1% of the building stock undergoes energy renovations each year, so there is a tremendous gap between today’s reality and the EU’s climate ambitions.

In other words, we are lagging behind, and overcoming this problem implies making fundamental regulatory changes in EU energy legislation.

This is where the review of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) comes in. The EPBD is, in the European Commission plans, one of the legislative pillars to address energy performance and emission of the EU building stock.

Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the Green Deal, said in October 2020 that “at the present rate of restructuring and refurbishing our housing, we will not achieve the (EU climate) goals, we need to double that and that is what we want to do with the Renovation Strategy”, thus putting buildings at the centre of the European Green Deal.

 

Read the full article on EURACTIV

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