Inputs for economic recovery, resilience and long-term sustainability

This short paper outlines the inputs of the European Alliance to Save Energy to achieve a green economic recovery, resilience and long-term sustainability in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These include spending criteria and quota that should be applied in both the Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation (RRF), currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and Council, as in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs).

The paper calls for prioritising investments in areas such as energy efficiency rather than lock-in resources in fossil fuel infrastructures that undermine the achievement of the Union’s climate and environmental objectives.

A key area of intervention to boost energy efficiency and cut CO2 emissions is represented by buildings. In the NRRPs, Member States should priorities cost-effective renovation programmes that foster the quality, rate, and depth of comprehensive renovations.

Technical assistance is also essential to remove the hurdles for local authorities, SMEs and corporate investments to implement energy efficiency projects and renovate the building stock.

 

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Decarbonising Europe’s buildings with available solutions, no hydrogen

Meeting the EU’s goal of achieving a climate neutral economy by 2050 will require a steep reduction in gas demand, and such reduction will need to start before 2030. This means the EU should focus on immediately available and cost-effective solutions, starting from energy efficiency and renewables, especially for buildings.

While green hydrogen can play a role in decarbonising the EU economy, its pathway comes with many uncertainties linked to the costs of its production, its inefficiency and effective application and should therefore be limited to hard-to-abate sectors only.

As for the heat policy for decarbonisation of buildings, the paper calls for the acceleration of energy efficiency options that can immediately deliver real carbon savings, while accommodating a growing share of renewable energy.

 

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Energy efficiency and the Energy System Integration Strategy

Reducing emissions across all sectors and decarbonizing “hard-to-abate sectors”, which include buildings, industry and transport, will strongly depend on the EU ability to apply the energy efficiency first principle, which should be mainstreamed to all energy policymaking, planning and investments, including into the upcoming EU Strategy on energy sector integration. 

Energy efficiency is the first fuel and should be the starting point for all decarbonization efforts, and this according to the energy efficiency first principle as defined in the Governance for Energy Union Regulation. Together with renewables, it must represent the lion’s share of the measures needed to meet the 2050 target. Energy efficiency and renewable electrification are two key pillars of a 1.5C decarbonization pathway.

To achieve its climate neutrality goal by 2050, the Commission has announced an Energy System Integration Strategy as part of its Green Deal. This new strategy will look at how to facilitate the interlinkages between electricity, heating, building, transport and industry sectors, to better use synergies likely to emerge (including in energy conversion and storage), thereby enabling a more cost-efficient decarbonization of the energy system. This includes looking at how integrating sectors can improve the overall efficiency of the energy system through enabling reuse of excess/waste energy, storage of surplus electricity in thermal networks, buildings and transport as well as to incentivize the clean electrification of sectors, interconnectivity and energy storage.

The recommendations outlined in this paper put forward some key ideas to fully consider the potential for energy efficiency and its role in facilitating the transition towards more integrated energy and other sectors.​

 

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Recommendations for a neighbourhood approach to maximize energy efficiency in renovation and energy planification

This position paper calls on the European Commission to integrate the notion of neighbourhood approach in the EU building and energy efficiency policy framework, in the national programmes for buildings renovations and in the upcoming Renovation Wave strategy.

The current energy efficiency legislative framework in buildings already refers to the notion of a district or neighbourhood approach, in particular in Art.19, §2, of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

While the article refers to 2026, given the multiple benefits of a neighbourhood approach and the need for accelerating our climate actions, the EU should prioritize the integration of this principle in its climate and energy framework and any new initiatives linked to renovation and decarbonization. This is all the more relevant, as the main challenge today is not so much the construction of new buildings as the renovation of the existing ones.

We need to make sure that the renovation policies deliver fast and concrete results in terms of increased energy efficiency and overall system efficiency, reduced energy consumption and reduced GHG emissions. A neighbourhood approach could help us achieve these goals and the overall objective of a highly energy efficient and decarbonized building stock.

 

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EU wide Renovation Wave: where growth strategy and job creation meet climate goals and social inclusiveness

Unlocking the potential for energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction that lies in the EU buildings stock is a top priority for the European Alliance to Save Energy.

 

As businesses and investors having energy efficiency and energy demand reduction at the heart of our activities, we look forward to seeing Europe’s global climate leadership translated in green measures which will lead to a sustainable recovery through stimulus packages. We strongly believe that the Renovation Wave as part of the EU Green Deal is a great opportunity to promote a European based industry, with technologies and expertise able to serve the renovation demand locally. This will help to maintain the competitive advantage of the European industry and will contribute to the European green recovery and local job creation while lifting millions of Europeans out of energy poverty.

We support a system-wide approach that puts highly energy efficient, renewable-based, smart and flexible buildings at the center of a fast-changing decentralized energy system.

With this in mind, we envisage an EU wide building Renovation Wave which revolves around the swift implementation of the Energy Efficiency First principle as the fastest and most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and stimulate sustainable economic recovery.

We are convinced that highly energy efficient and smart buildings are the first and indispensable step to:

  • Accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources
  • Foster sector integration of buildings with other sectors, including industry,
    transport and energy sectors
  • Catalyse energy system decentralization and enhance overall system efficiency
  • Stimulate a sustainable economic recovery, and boost local employment

For this to happen Europe must back an ambitious and impactful Renovation Wave which aims to increase the energy efficiency of buildings by reducing their energy consumption and by fostering the greater quality, the rate, and the depth of comprehensive renovations encompassing envelopes and technical buildings systems. Concretely, and to stay on track with the EPBD goal of decarbonizing the EU building stock by 2050, the Renovation Wave should be designed to reach a minimum of a 3% renovation rate per year combined with an average energy efficiency improvement of 75%.

The social impact of an EU wide energy efficient Renovation Wave would be tremendous. Improved comfort, cleaner indoor and outdoor air quality, reduced energy bills, the emerging role of prosumers with the possibility to optimise and monetise their energy resources on a peer-topeer market place, better and more qualified local jobs are just a few concrete examples of the multiple benefits that Energy Efficiency First in buildings would deliver to those who need them the most, i.e. live in energy poverty.

 

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