Enefirst report – Barriers to implementing E1st in the EU-28

This report is focused on barriers to implementing “Efficiency First” (E1st) in the EU in several policy areas that are linked to energy use in the buildings sector (such as network codes, renewable energy policy, building regulations and others).

The Enefirst consortium has released a report identifying persisting barriers to implementing the decision-making principle of efficiency first in energy system planning and policymaking. The report, authored by BPIE, is based on the results of a survey to 45 experts in energy efficiency in buildings, infrastructure, and planning from across Europe.

The main messages from this survey are that:

  • Political barriers are the category most frequently mentioned by respondents, suggesting that implementing the E1st principle would be first and foremost a political decision.
  • A majority of respondents stressed the lack of expertise, knowledge, awareness or understanding, which suggests that a proactive dissemination of good practices and case studies is important.
  • Implementing E1st can work only if every actor understands what it means for them: making E1st a common practice implies making E1st part of everyone’s work.
  • Multiple benefits of E1st need to be considered and communicated more effectively among stakeholders, in line with one key element of the E1st principle: using a broader scope in cost-benefit analysis.
  • Making E1st a common practice would require a cultural change along the whole chain of actors.
  • Cultural barriers are related to actors’ own habits and practices as well as about breaking silo thinking.
  • Other barriers specific to E1st relate to possible reasons why supply-side options might be given priority, disregarding demand-side options: these aspects are at the core of the E1st principle and complement the analyses done earlier on the background and definitions of E1st (see ENEFIRST 2020a) by emphasising why we need to think beyond existing energy efficiency policies.

Enshrined in EU legislation since 2018, efficiency first is a decision-making principle that gives priority to demand-side resources whenever they are more cost-effective from a societal perspective than investments in energy infrastructure, and should be applied systematically to energy-related investment planning. To date, it has yet to be effectively implemented systematically.

Read the report.
Original article from BPIE.

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Ending energy poverty starts with efficient homes

by Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE)

This op-ed was published on CEEnergyNews


The upcoming Renovation Wave initiative will be crucial to address how energy poverty can be eradicated through accelerated renovation rate across the EU.

Today around 11 per cent of the EU population – 54 million Europeans, is affected by energy poverty. With real energy prices up by 70 per cent since 2004, energy is becoming a luxury item across the European Union, where 75 per cent of the current building stock has no or very weak energy performance requirements.

In 2016 alone, roughly 50 million Europeans were unable to keep their home warm. This means 1 European out of 10. In some countries, the situation is much worse, for example in Bulgaria where 46.5 per cent of people are unable to keep their homes adequately warm in winter. Similar numbers were reported regarding the late payment of utility bills or the presence of poor housing conditions. Recent data show that more than a third of the Greek population (35 per cent) struggles to keep up with their payments, the same is true for many Bulgarians (34 per cent), Croatians (30 per cent), and Romanians (29 per cent).

This already bad situation has worsened because of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, as the confinement measures adopted by national governments have made the energy needs of residential consumers grow. Moreover, many energy-poor people are the ‘essential workers’, facing low pay and risk as they have to keep working to keep essential services running. Lower-income households also pay proportionally more for energy. Due to the economic downturn caused by the crisis, many people also lost their job and families saw their income swiftly decline, with a new or increased difficulty in paying their energy bills.

A key step to tackle energy poverty is renovating buildings to make them more energy-efficient and would lower residents’ energy bills. In the case of low-income households, who are forced to spend a large share of their income on energy bills, energy efficiency measures allow them to live in a more comfortable and healthy environment while saving money they may need for other basic purposes, like food or healthcare.

There are few policy actions that the EU and national authorities should do immediately to boost buildings renovation and eradicate energy poverty.

First, Member States must speed up the implementation of existing legislation, starting with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which requires them to submit long-term renovation strategies. The deadline to transpose the directive was 10 March, but only seven Member States have done so to this date.

Governments should also introduce renovation grants and fiscal incentives. This would allow low-income households to renovate their homes for free or very cheaply. To this aim, it is key that a consistent part of the COVID-19 recovery plans is allocated to boosting building renovation at a national level. A quota of EU funds should also be directed towards renovation efforts, through the EU budget, the Just Transition mechanism and the recently announced recovery package (Next Generation EU).

At the EU level, the Commission has done very little so far to tackle energy poverty. In its Green Deal communication of December 2019, it only proposed to review existing laws which are not delivering, set up a platform for stakeholders, and provide “guidance” on energy poverty to Member States.

The upcoming Renovation Wave initiative will, therefore, be crucial to address how energy poverty can be eradicated through accelerated renovation rate across the EU. Boosting renovation to 3 per cent annually (from one per cent at present) would slash energy demand in buildings by 80 per cent, lifting millions of residents from energy poverty, while at the same time drastically cut related emissions.

Minimum standards legislation for existing buildings, as proposed by the energy committee of the European Parliament in its initiative report, would also boost renovation efforts.

Finally, the current energy efficiency targets must be increased and made binding at EU and Member State level.

If rightly implemented, these policies would have a tremendous social impact delivering to households across Europe increased comfort, cleaner indoor and outdoor air quality, reduced energy bills and better and more qualified local jobs.

It is the time for Europe to prove that the Green Deal pledge to “leave no one behind” is not just a slogan but a concrete political plan and that a just transition to a climate-neutral society is possible and desirable.

 

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Green recovery: reboot and re-boost our economies for a sustainable future

The coronavirus crisis is shaking the whole world, with devastating consequences across Europe. We are being put to the test. We are suffering and mourning our losses, and this crisis is testing the limits of our system. It is also a test of our great European solidarity and of our institutions, which acted fast at the start of the crisis to deploy measures to protect us. The crisis is still ongoing, but we will see the light at the end of the tunnel, and by fighting together, we will beat the virus.

Never have we faced such a challenging situation in peacetime. The fight against the pandemic is our top priority and everything that is needed to stop it and eradicate the virus must be done. We welcome and strongly support all the actions developed by governments, EU institutions, local authorities, scientists, medical staff, volunteers, citizens and economic actors.

In this tremendously difficult situation, we are also facing another crisis: a shock to our economy tougher than the 2008 crisis. The major shock to the economy and workers created by the pandemic calls for a strong coordinated economic response. We therefore welcome the declaration of European leaders stating that they will do “whatever it takes” to tackle the social and economic consequences of this crisis. However, what worked for the 2008 financial crisis may not be sufficient to overcome this one. The economic recovery will only come with massive investments to protect and create jobs and to support all the companies, regions and sectors that have suffered from the economy coming to a sudden halt.

After the crisis, the time will come to rebuild. This moment of recovery will be an opportunity to rethink our society and develop a new model of prosperity. This new model will have to answer to our needs and priorities.

These massive investments must trigger a new European economic model: more resilient, more protective, more sovereign and more inclusive. All these requirements lie in an economy built around Green principles. Indeed, the transition to a climate-neutral economy, the protection of biodiversity and the transformation of agri-food systems have the potential to rapidly deliver jobs, growth and improve the way of life of all citizens worldwide, and to contribute to building more resilient societies.

 

Download the full letter and list of signatories

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