It’s time to act to address Europe’s buildings issue

As we are drifting towards winter, I am struck by the gap between the urgency to protect European citizens from the consequences of poorly performing homes, and the reluctance of our leaders to decisively act on it. We are witnessing intense debates on the energy efficiency files under the Fit for 55 Package, and this is not nearly the end of it.

Asking citizens to adapt their behavior to mitigate the risk of gas shortages and subsidizing their bills seem to be the only political answer. Yet, we all know that solutions addressing only the symptoms will not help in the long run.

The solution to the cause is the EU Renovation Wave, however we cannot overlook the challenges to this. We need an additional 275 billion euros to finance it (1), and the acceleration of the rate and depth of renovation calls for coordination and new business models.

We have been sleepwalking on the issue for too long, hypnotized by cheap fossil energy hiding the leaks and waste of our buildings. It is not too late to change that.

It is our responsibility to help politicians join the dots between short- and long-term concerns. The equivalent of 1,7% of EU GDP was spent to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis so far (2). By contrast, financing the Renovation Wave would represent 1,5% of the GDP. Add to that jobs, health and productivity benefits, and a boost to our climate agenda.

It is also our responsibility to explain what renovation market actors need to be able to invest, train, and innovate. Building owners, manufacturers, banks, real estate and building professionals need visibility. This visibility is at the heart of the MEPS (Minimum Energy Performance Standards) proposal, a true renovation accelerator.

The best energy will always be the energy we do not need, thanks to the efficiency of our buildings.

We can help make this a reality.

by Céline Carré
Head of Public Affairs
Saint-Gobain

Sources:
1. Question 5 in FAQ on the Renovation Wave: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/qanda_20_1836
2.  Bruegel, 21/09/2022 and Europe’s Deepening Energy Crisis Pushes Bill to $500 Billion

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The water-energy nexus repowering the EU

The water-energy nexus is the interdependency of water and energy: energy is needed for abstracting, storing, treating or disposing water but also for moving, heating and cooling water across industrial cycles, while water is also heavily used for the generation and transmission of energy. The nexus holds the potential to generate large-scale energy and water savings across sectors and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy use by water and wastewater infrastructure amounts to about 4% global electricity consumption and 3,5% in the European Union (IEA, 2016).

Water utilities can become energy neutral and even energy positive with existing technologies and low costs of investments.

The revision of the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) represents a key opportunity to deliver the transition in the sector. A good way forward would be introducing an energy efficiency target for wastewater treatment plants of a certain size, for example bigger than 10,000 in population equivalent (p.e.). Mandatory energy audits for wastewater treatment operators which include measuring water efficiency could also help advance the energy efficiency of the sector.

This would reinforce and echo new provisions on water and the energy savings obligations for public bodies, currently being negotiated by co-legislators in the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) recast.

Digitalisation in the water sector is an important enabler towards energy neutrality. In wastewater treatment, existing digital solutions can achieve significant energy savings with limited investment needs (no civil engineering or hardware costs) within a short period of time. Intelligent pumps for wastewater management, for example, can save up to 70% energy per utility with 80% inventory reduction, thus lowering costs for utilities.

Saving water, saves energy and saving energy saves water. It is now time to advance energy efficiency and “RePower” the EU through the water-energy nexus!

by Tania Pentcheva
Senior Manager Government and Industry Relations
Xylem Inc.  

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Decarbonising heating and cooling: the time variable

Fossil fuels used for heating and cooling are responsible for 12% of the total EU CO2-equivalent emissions and for 28% of the yearly EU energy consumption. Furthermore, as shown by the latest figures released by the Coolproducts campaign, only about 17.3% of the heating appliances installed in European homes are powered by electricity or use clean technologies.

The EU Copernicus Climate Change Service has demonstrated how close we are to reaching a global warming of 1.5°C, foreseen now for February 2034. In the IPCC Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis report, it is noted that while strong and sustained reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilise. Even with a carbon-neutral planet in 2050, global temperatures would stabilise no earlier than 2070.

Technologies to replace gas, oil and coal boilers have been there for years, manufacturers are ready and consumers are in favour of the switch.

The International Energy Agency’s ‘Net-Zero by 2050’ argues that if the world is to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of this century, no new fossil fuel boilers should be sold from 2025 onwards.

EU decisionmakers should include this ban in forthcoming EU legislation. With the continued installation of fossil fuel boilers in European buildings beyond 2025, the risk that they will still be in place in 2050 is almost certain, thus undermining the  EU climate neutrality goal.

 

by Sergio Andreis
Director of Kyoto Club  

 

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