EUSEW 2020 blog | Renovation Wave: the immediate and powerful recovery button at the fingertips of EU policymakers

by Bertrand Deprez, Vice President EU Government Affairs at Schneider Electric & Céline Carré, Head of European Public Affairs at Saint Gobain, members of the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE)

This article was published in the blog of the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2020


There is one clear reboot button at the fingertips of European policy-makers, the label underneath carries the tag ‘Renovation Wave’. Rather than causing a re-start, bringing back an older configuration, pressing this button would put Europe on a new path to sustainable growth, with its citizens at the heart.

The European Union should therefore set aside any hesitation and reply with a straight ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Are you sure?’ that we usually get when rebooting our devices. ‘Yes’, because with 36% of CO2 emissions and 40% of energy consumption, buildings represent a major potential for Europe’s climate neutrality pathway. ‘Yes’, as fuelling renovation activities across Europe will translate into an immediate economic stimulus for the whole construction value chain, the biggest industrial employer in Europe. ‘Yes’, because the Renovation Wave will deliver comfortable and smart buildings that our citizens desire. Finally, ‘Yes’, as it will significantly contribute to the EU’s climate and energy targets and help to restore social cohesion in societies affected by the crisis.

Alongside the first push, political willingness will still be needed to give this wave the right shape and reap its promised benefits:

  • Firstly, the overarching goal: a clear strategy built on the long term goal of reaching a net zero-carbon building stock by 2050, should act as a catalyst to coordinate the efforts of the value chain and reach sufficient depth of renovation. Decarbonizing the existing stock will only happen with the right combination of making our buildings ultra-efficient (based on energy efficiency first) and relying on local renewable generation.
  • Secondly, the rate of renovation: political impetus such as the use of trigger points, minimum energy performance standards and the phase out of the worst performing buildings should be deployed to bring the renovation rate across Europe to 3% per year.
  • Thirdly, the scalability, which will come from simple and stable renovation programmes and related financing, e.g. via the setting of a dedicated Renovation Fund for All Europeans, stable tax incentives for renovation and leveraging of private finance. At the same time, there is a need to make full use of the potential of digitalization to improve buildings’ design and optimize their performance. It is time to tailor such initiatives in a segment-specific approach, encompassing both building renovation and retrofit of the technical building systems. With the current COVID-19 outbreak, Europe should seize the opportunity to renovate the less occupied public and non-residential buildings as well as homes. Citizens who spend more time indoors want to enjoy comfortable and healthy spaces.

A high impact renovation wave will be the key to creating hundreds of thousands of jobs across the continent. Research, innovation, industries: Europe already has all the ingredients to power this motor for the recovery. It just needs to press that button.

 

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EUSEW 2020 blog | Smart and the city: energy efficiency and sector integration for a #carbonneutralEU

by Julie Kjestrup, Interim Head of Group Public Affairs and Sustainability at Danfoss and Board Member of the European Alliance to Save Energy.

This article was published in the blog of the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2020


In the next few years, policy makers will have to rethink urban planning and market designs. For the cities of tomorrow to be sustainable, sector integration and energy efficiency must be at the heart of the policy framework.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency of a Green Deal framework that delivers, to ensure that we do not go back to where we were but forward to where we want to be: to a sustainable society, protecting our climate and creating future-proof jobs and growth.

Leveraging urban efficiency is essential to getting there. Cities provide unique opportunities for energy and resource efficiency, using synergies between the elements of the urban energy system. This makes them ideal frontrunners to showcase new technologies and create attractive, future-proof places to live and work.

The key is to be smart in the way we use our (future) energy: this means smart about how much energy we consume in the first place. In other words: energy efficiency first. Capturing the full potential of energy efficiency will allow a faster roll-out of renewables and lead us on the most cost-efficient path to carbon neutrality. In fact, recent research from Denmark shows that the extra costs for reaching Denmark’s new and ambitious 70% CO2 reduction by 2030-target can be significantly reduced by investing in existing energy efficiency technology in buildings and industries.

It also means smart about how we use, re-use and store our energy: through interconnections, integration and managing demand and supply in an efficient way we can stabilise our grid. We can use the excess heat from a nearby factory, data centre or supermarket to warm or cool houses, or to charge an electric vehicle. By creating synergies between sectors like buildings, industry, power generators and transport, sector integration is integral to reach decarbonisation.

According to a forthcoming research from Navigant, implementation of existing technology solutions for sector integration, energy efficient heating and cooling of buildings and electrified transport can bridge about half of the gap needed to reach the 1.5°C target in urban areas. At the same time, these reductions will contribute with more than one-third of total needed national emissions reductions in Europe. It can also save money. The Heat Roadmap Europe studies show that utilising energy system synergies and exploiting energy efficiency can save Europe 13% of primary energy use and reduce total energy-system costs by approximately 70 billion euros per year compared to other decarbonisation scenarios.

The future is here already: EnergyLab Nordhavn is an important part of Copenhagen’s overall goal of being climate neutral by 2025. A ‘living lab’ on efficient and smart sector integration, it will house 40,000 residents and 40,000 workplaces when done. Going forward, projects like this must become norm, and that means integrating our own thinking in terms of levers of the future energy policy framework.

The Green Deal framework enables that by putting a holistic vision forward that can create a more resilient, efficient and consumer-based system, and add jobs and growth along the way. To make this happen, policy makers will have to rethink urban planning and market designs. For the cities of tomorrow to be sustainable, sector integration must sit at the heart of the policy framework.

Additional information:

https://www.danfoss.com/en/about-danfoss/insights-for-tomorrow/energy-efficiency/

https://www.danfoss.com/en/about-danfoss/insights-for-tomorrow/district-energy/

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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.

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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.

 

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The European Green Deal: a tipping point for good

by Harry Verhaar, EU-ASE Bord Chair and Head of Public & Government Affairs at Signify

It’s been a grave winter for the health of our planet. In Madrid, urgent climate talks dissolved into a disappointing stalemate. The public is informed and engaged in a new and promising way, but is also more divided. We are close to a tipping point: a point at which the rate of change increases dramatically, and possibly irreversibly towards a climate catastrophe.

When we talk about the concept of tipping points, we recognize that change isn’t linear – it’s exponential. We see examples of this all too frequently. As the planet warms, Arctic permafrost thaws, releasing methane and carbon dioxide that further accelerates the pace of change. And as the Earth loses more and more of its white, reflective surfaces, the planet more readily absorbs heat. We’re close to some of nature’s tipping points. Reaching these would have disastrous implications for our planet and our way of life.

Man on the moon moment

But in Europe, a change is coming that could be crucial to containing our carbon emissions and limiting the effects of climate change. On December 11, 2019, the European Commission announced the European Green Deal, a set of policy initiatives aimed at making this continent carbon neutral by 2050. The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, called it Europe’s “man on the moon moment.”

The world’s track record with climate regulation has been patchy at best. So, what’s different about the European Green Deal? For me, it marks a fundamental change in the way environmental and sustainability regulation is developed. Historically, change that is focused upon carbon emissions reduction or environmental protection has been weighed in terms of expense: what must we sacrifice to achieve these targets? This tends to shut down public and political discussion, and in my view, has critically undersold the opportunities that sustainable practices bring to the table.

Growth strategy

The Green Deal is not about penalizing businesses and people for doing things in a less sustainable way. It’s a growth strategy, integrated into every public policy plan, that hardwires a preference for sustainable initiatives into every aspect of Europe’s socioeconomic development.

This is an important distinction. When you look more deeply at sustainable solutions, you discover that they are not at odds with economic progress. They are, in fact, better in every way. Take LED lighting. It’s more resource-efficient. Less burdensome on the environment. It costs less over a lifetime. And it is better for people, helping to improve quality of life. It can reduce road traffic accidents, deter crime, make you more productive, contribute to you breathing cleaner air. Who would say no to that?

We’ve said before that as we move into this all-determining decade of climate action, the time for talk is over. The European Green Deal presents a clear and non-negotiable ambition: to be climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest. To get there, we need intermediate milestones too, and that means a cut in emissions of more than half by 2030. This is in line with the recommendation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which advised a reduction of at least 55% by 2030.

 

“A climate neutral goal without action is dreaming.
Climate Action without a clear goal is sleepwalking.”

 

To have our “man on the moon moment”, we need to walk the talk. At Signify, we have our own carbon commitment, to be carbon neutral by the end of this year.

We also call upon others to adopt programs like the Climate Group’s RE100 commitment to renewable energy, to participate in renovation programs that transform existing buildings into net zero carbon buildings, and to adopt a 100% electric vehicle goal for the corporate or the municipal car fleet, because doing these things brings with it progress. It demystifies climate action, it turns ambition into concrete steps, and it demonstrates the economic potential of a new and better way for our society to function.

Progress is not linear

Programs that start with only a few participants have the power to make a difference. We know that the detrimental effects of climate change on our planet are not linear, but the same can be said of our progress. History has shown that many transitions accelerate after reaching a certain momentum. We see this in the lighting sector. At the end of 2006, incandescent light bulbs were still two thirds of our sales volume. In our last quarter, more than 80% of our revenue came from sustainable products, systems and services. The world has more people, bigger urban populations, and more light points than ever before, yet the proportion of global electricity consumption from lighting falls each year, from 19% in 2006, to 13% in 2018, and we expect it to fall further to 8% by 2030.

What happened? LED reached a tipping point. This successful decoupling of electricity consumption from use of light shows that choosing for sustainability does not need to come at a cost. This is just one example of such a decoupling – there can be many more. If we can achieve energy savings on such a scale across buildings, transportation, industry, our targets will be easily met.

To my mind, the European Green Deal can be our tipping point for good. With its broad scope, it reaches into the areas where we can have the most significant impact, and within these, create further tipping points for good. It can change the way we approach regulation. It can prove to the world that sustainability and economic growth need not be at odds. And it can be a time we look back on as the moment when we joined together to divert our path to a better and more sustainable trajectory.

 

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