EU needs mandatory targets and means to save energy

The European Commission needs to bring in legally-binding energy efficiency targets to support building renovation and give member states the support they need to reach them.

by Kamila Waciega, Public Affairs Director for Energy at Veolia, and Ville Niinistö, Finnish Member of the European Parliament and coordinator for the Greens/EFA group in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy.

In its recent communication on the European Union climate target for 2030, the EU Commission described energy efficiency legislation and policies as essential instruments contributing to the achievement of the new 2030 greenhouse gas reduction.

However, according to the accompanying impact assessment and the evaluation of National Energy and Climate Plans, the EU will surpass its current target for renewable energy by 1.7%, while it will still fail to meet its current 2030 efficiency target by 3%.

A similar result is expected for the energy efficiency target for 2020.

As the Commission is in the process of revising the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), it is crucial to seize this opportunity to address the reasons for such an outcome of current energy efficiency policies.

One clear issue is the fact that the renewable energy target is binding at EU level, while the energy efficiency one still is not.

In the current context of dire health, economic and environmental crisis, we cannot afford this discrepancy. We need both higher and nationally binding energy efficiency targets, given all the benefits that investments in this segment can reap.

Following the position of the European Parliament, which asked for 60% emissions reduction by 2030, and taking into account the abovementioned impact assessment, the existing target for energy efficiency needs to be increased to 45% to untap the energy efficiency potential.

To ensure delivery, the EU level target should be made binding.

However, setting a better target is not enough. The most arduous element is providing means to achieve it. Those are regulatory and financial, and both can be ensured through the EED, which is currently planned for revision by June 2021.


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Open letter: building renovations should be at the centre of the Italian recovery

In view of the drafting of the Italian recovery and resilience plan, EU-ASE has joined with leading national players from industry, environmentalism and academia asking the government to focus on the renovation of buildings for a green and resilient recovery.

The letter states:

The drafting and implementation of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan is an historic challenge for our country. It represents the unique opportunity to boost the economy, safeguard and/or create jobs and win the fight against pollution and climate change.

The renovation of existing buildings is the ideal tool because it provides advantages in terms of growth, jobs, economic and social resilience, which are unparalleled in other sectors:

  • the high labour intensity, typical of all construction work, will create numerous local jobs (on average 18 jobs for every million euros invested, according to a Renovate Europe study);
  • renovations will improve the quality of the buildings, this will have huge impacts on all of us citizens, who spend about 90% of our time inside buildings, including better air quality, comfort, and health;
  • the strong decrease in energy consumption, which will bring decisive benefits in terms of tackling climate change (buildings are responsible for a large part of climate-altering emissions)

It is also important to remember that the aforementioned benefits would be obtained in a short time and would last over the long period, thanks to the long life of the technologies involved (insulation and renewable sources).

For this reason we support the plan to extend the “Superbonus 110%” until 2024 and, potentially, even beyond, until reaching the goal of decarbonising the entire building stock, as required by the European Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD).

Similarly, we support the willingness to allocate a part of the Recovery Fund resources (1 billion euro/year) for the renovation of public buildings, excluded from the application of the Superbonus 110%.

The above is the first necessary step to reach the EU 2030 (-55%) and 2050 (climate neutrality) climate targets. In fact, we remind you that Italy, according to the EPBD, has yet to adopt a real long-term renovation strategy for the de-carbonisation of the Italian housing stock.

Today more than ever buildings renovations can and must contribute to the recovery of the Italian economy and, at the same time, make our society more resilient.


Read the full letter here (in Italian)

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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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Renovation Wave focuses on energy efficiency, minimum standards and finance

The European Commission unveiled today its much-anticipated Renovation Wave initiative. The strategy outlines the steps needed to renovate more than 220 million existing buildings by 2050.

It also calls for the EU to at least double the current annual rate of buildings energy efficiency renovation by 2030 and to foster deep energy renovations. This would equal to renovating up to 35 million buildings over the next 10 years.

The European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) welcomes the initiative, which comes at a crucial moment for Europe’s short-term economic recovery and long-term path towards climate neutrality.

The Renovation Wave rightly underlines the importance of energy efficiency first principle as a horizontal guiding principle of European climate and energy governance and beyond, to make sure we only produce the energy we really need. The Commission announced the publication of the guidance on the energy efficiency first principle in early 2021.

A key element of the initiative is the proposal of a phased introduction of mandatory minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings, as part of next year’s revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

EU-ASE highly welcomes the accompanying document on EU funding of the Renovation Wave and the commitment by the Commission to ensuring that buildings are included as a top priority when assessing national recovery and resilience plans.

Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy said:

“We welcome the Renovation Wave as a key strategy to increase the energy efficiency of buildings by reducing their energy consumption and by fostering the greater quality, rate, and depth of comprehensive renovations. If this strategy is rightly implemented, the benefits will be tremendous. These will include improved comfort, cleaner indoor and outdoor air quality, reduced energy bills, local qualified jobs, and millions of citizens lifted out of energy poverty”.

Harry Verhaar, Chair of the board of the European Alliance to Save Energy and Head of global public & government affairs at Signify said:

“We welcome the Renovation Wave as the best kick-start of economic recovery in Europe. In particular, the decision to extend Article 5 of the Energy Efficiency Directive to all public buildings, including private schools and hospitals, is excellent news. Increasing the renovation rate of our buildings is the biggest job machine at our disposal, and these are good local jobs that replace expensive energy imports. Now let’s use the Renovation Wave as a lighthouse on our way to climate neutrality”.

Bonnie Brook, Vice-Chair of the board of the European Alliance to Save Energy and Senior Manager Industry Affairs – Building Automation at Siemens Switzerland said:

“A Renovation Wave is essential as for the EU it will be impossible to become carbon neutral without massively renovating its old and inefficient building stock. Renovation, decarbonisation, and digitalisation should go hand in hand to achieve Europe’s ambitious climate targets. For these reasons, we welcome this initiative, hoping that it will be followed by the
necessary legislation to make sure that smart infrastructure and innovative business models will enable and accelerate the energy transition for all Europeans.”

Bertrand Deprez, Vice-Chair of the board of the European Alliance to Save Energy and Vice-President EU government affairs at Schneider Electric said:

“Making our buildings energy efficient is key to reconcile Europe’s climate objectives with rapid economic recovery across Europe. The added value of this initiative is that it can be a strong driver for both. To ensure that the Renovation Wave objectives are met, the EU and its Member States need to scale-up the renovation rate by combining the principle of efficiency first with the deployment of distributed energy resources and the rise of digital technologies.”

With regards to the next steps, the Commission has outlined a list of related upcoming actions and their indicative timelines.


Matteo Guidi, Communication Officer

The European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE), established in 2010 by some of Europe’s leading multinational companies, creates a platform from which companies can ensure that the voice of energy efficiency is heard across the business and political community. EU-ASE members have operations across the 27 Member States of the European Union, employ over 340.000 people in Europe and have an aggregated annual turnover of €115 billion.


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A smart, energy efficient and fair Renovation Wave for a faster economic recovery

In an open letter sent to the European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, the group of progressive businesses and NGOs which constitute the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) called on the Commission to present an ambitious Renovation Wave initiative based on the energy efficiency first principle and funded by sufficient and dedicated resources.

In the broader energy system integration context, the letter states, the energy efficiency first principle must guide all building renovations’ decision-making processes. This implies the recognition of buildings as strategic and priority infrastructure for Europe.

With regards to resources, it is crucial to secure dedicated financial envelopes for building renovations within the National Recovery and Resilience Plans, InvestEU and the post 2020 Cohesion funds. Funds should be clearly earmarked and conditioned to increase the rate, depth and quality of integrated building renovations, the signatories write. The granting of financial support should follow the ratio “unit of energy saved (or CO2 saved) per invested Euro”, to ensure cost-effectiveness measurements of investments supported by EU funds.

Moreover, an ambitious Renovation Wave should focus on immediate, efficient heat decarbonisation. This is a great opportunity to accelerate the decarbonisation of heat in Europe’s buildings by combining energy efficiency, digitalisation and direct electrification with the deployment of smart, efficient, responsive electric heating and district level heating solutions. These can secure immediate carbon savings in buildings through existing and cost-effective solutions, enabling the use of waste heat and by the same token allow to prioritise limited green hydrogen capacity for deployment in harder-to-abate sectors, such as industry and freight.

From an environmental perspective, evidence shows that the Renovation Wave is a conditio sine qua non to reach the increased GHG emissions target for 2030 and climate-neutrality by 2050. Smarter and energy efficient buildings not only contribute directly to the reduction of energy demand and GHG emissions, but they are a prerequisite for a faster and deeper integration of renewables. 

The synergy between energy efficiency first in the building stock and the acceleration of renewable energy penetration is the real game changer and essential driver of the inevitable transformation of our energy system.


Download the letter here

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