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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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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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:

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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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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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