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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Open letter to ECON and BUDG Committees Members: A green recovery for Europe

In view of the ongoing discussion in the European Parliament on the Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation, the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE) sent a letter to the Members of the Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) and Budgets (BUDG) Committees calling for a green recovery for current and future generations.

The letter states:

The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting the economy of the European Union hard. This urges a rapid, coordinated, and forward-looking response to cope with unprecedented health, economic and social consequences for all.

From a business perspective we are convinced that such response requires the EU recovery plans to support sustainable investments in projects and reforms fully aligned with the Paris agreement objectives and the goal to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Indeed, a large number of authoritative studies and economic research1,2 show that a green recovery holds the opportunity to provide short term boost to local economies and job creation while supporting, in the long term, the modernisation of our economic system and the ecological transition.

For these reasons and in view of the current discussion on the Recovery and Resilience Facility Regulation (RRF), we call on you to follow the indications received by your colleagues of the ENVI Committee in its Opinion of 14 October 2020 and in particular to ensure that:

At least 40% of the RRF’s total budget is earmarked to finance climate actions and addresses, over the next ten years, the economic, health, environmental and social consequences of climate changes, especially on the young and future generations.

The EU Taxonomy is used to assess both the eligibility and tracking of the investments included in the national recovery and resilience plans.

The RRF supports the achievement of the energy and climate targets for 2030 and 2050. In this perspective, national recovery and resilience plans should prioritise investments in areas such as energy efficient building renovations rather than lock-in resources in fossil fuel infrastructures that undermine the achievement of the Union’s climate and environmental objectives.

 

See the full letter here

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The great potential of non-residential buildings and how to tap into it

Decarbonising non-residential buildings is crucial to meet Europe’s carbon neutrality goal by 2050. To do so, and in view of the upcoming Renovation Wave, Member States should focus on the ambitious implementation of the EPBD and produce renovation strategies targeted also to this sector.

There are many reasons why making also non-residential buildings energy efficient should be among the priorities for the European Union and its Member States. The share of non-residential buildings in the total EU building stock is just 25%, but they require in average 55% more energy than residential buildings. Take Germany, for example, non-residential buildings (excluding industry and trade) are the smallest group in terms of numbers, at around 2.7 million units. However, due to their larger area per building they represent the second largest group in terms of building energy consumption (36%).

Decarbonising non-residential buildings is advantageous because, due to their nature, ownership structure and the high energy demand schools, hospitals and offices are ideally suited to help shape important paths for a future-oriented energy system based on energy efficiency, digitalisation, and an increasing role of “prosumers”.

Indeed, in 90% of cases, the energy efficiency potential of those buildings can be realized economically within their life cycle. The technologies required for this have been available for a long time and are constantly being enhanced by the industry. These include systems for energy-efficient management of indoor air quality, thermal comfort, integration of renewable energies, electromobility, as well as for workplace management. 

In addition to the energy-efficient renovation of the building envelop, investments in building automation technologies offer savings in energy and cost of around 30%, with payback periods between 6 months and 3 years. 

To achieve these figures, all technical systems in a non-residential building should be coordinated to go beyond their individual functions in order to optimize the energy productivity. This can be done through the harmonization of demand and supply energy flows, and the proactive management of thermal and electrical storage. Doing so would enable the integration of renewables even on a small scale as well as the application of various demand side management strategies.

In this perspective, a coherent modernization and digitalisation of the energy infrastructure of non-residential buildings will support the transformation of the energy system and the active implementation of the EU’s climate protection policy. The advancing digitalisation in the building sector will be the determining pathfinder for more energy efficiency in the future and will pave the way for grid-interactive efficient intelligent buildings. 

Smart buildings integrate technology and equipment to proactively predict faults, monitor performance in real time, and provide predictive insights regarding building systems and facilities, including power management, energy usage, and occupant comfort.

The revised EPBD set out a clear path towards achieving a stock of low and zero-emission buildings in the Union by 2050. This path is based on national roadmaps with intermediate targets and progress indicators, with public and private funding and investment. An ambitious EPBD implementation and financially sound renovation strategies for non-residential buildings are needed to kick-start the Renovation Wave. 

In this context, buildings should no longer be considered as pure energy consumers but as active players and dynamic assets in the future, climate-neutral energy system.

 

This article was written by Bonnie Brook, Vice-chair of the Board of the European Alliance to Save Energy and Senior Manager Industry Affairs at Siemens, and Volker Dragon, Senior Manager Industry Affairs at Siemens.

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Recover Europe? Renovate buildings!

by Peter Robl, Public Affairs Manager Eastern Europe at Knauf Insulation & Martin Hojsík, Member of the European Parliament

This op-ed was published on CEEnergyNews


Building renovation needs the EU’s support and will help recover the economy in return. European leaders need to deliver efficient incentives soon.

Building renovation is a key element of achieving Europe’s 2030 and 2050 decarbonisation targets. The COVID-19 related quarantine and the current summer heatwaves across Europe have underlined the importance of quality and energy-efficient buildings to deliver safe and healthy housing and workplaces. Europe needs to increase the generally low renovation rate, yet the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis will further push the rate down.

The slowdown in renovation activity will result from a decline in investor confidence. Who would not delay insulation of their home by a year or two, when they had lived without insulation for the last ten? Who would provide a loan for renovation if repayments are not secured?

Construction output tends to suffer from economic hick-ups longer and harder than the rest of the economy. After the crisis in 2008, GDP and industrial production returned to growth as early as 2010 in many countries, while construction output continued to fall year after year until 2014 (as illustrated by the Slovak case – see chart below).

 

 

European leaders have the power to help economic recovery, decarbonisation and housing quality of EU citizens at the same time. Delivering efficient incentive mechanisms aimed at building renovation and delivering them soon is required.

They have plenty of opportunities. Many countries struggle to manage spending from the current cohesion programs (2014 – 2020) in a number of areas. Re-allocating the funds to building renovation programs where demand is high is a sensible solution and an alternative to leaving the money on the ground. Swift finalisation of the MFF discussions will enable Member States to seal Partnership Agreements and launch new Cohesion funding (2021 – 2027) without much delay. The Next Generation EU fund intends to help Europe with green and digital transitions and should, therefore, include programs aimed at building renovation.

Lessons learned from previous periods need to be taken on board to ensure good results. Visegrad experts have pulled their 15 recommendations on more efficient use of the 2021-27 Cohesion Funds that apply to any other EU or national funding, too. Experts call, among other things, for a better reflection between allocation and investment need. They also say that “more developed regions” need access to the funding, too – building owners, both public and private, need to be motivated to perform a renovation and to perform it with higher ambition and quality, regardless of how developed their region is. Moreover, they suggest excluding renovation from state aid rules and streamlining public procurement to a lean and effective process as this would increase the renovation uptake.

But are the Central and Eastern European Member States actually ready to deliver building renovation? In fact, and contrary to their climate policy attitudes, they are. Just a few examples. Romania is just about to launch subsidy programs for both single-family homes and public buildings. Bulgaria has a successful track record with a program for a multi-apartment building renovation that is now on hold due to budget issues. In Slovakia, renovation projects of municipal buildings worth more than 100 million euros are ready as they have applied but not received subsidies from an EU Fund program. Poland is starting a Clean Air Program aimed to combat air pollution. The Czech Republic has a positive experience with their New Green Savings, a program delivering quality renovation of 8,000 single-family homes a year. Croatia seeking funding for multi-apartment and public building renovation programs, as well as for buildings in Zagreb damaged by the March 2020 earthquake.

Supporting the quality renovation of buildings delivers several benefits. It goes directly to builders, the citizens. Not only does it control the damage to the decline of construction output, but also helps recover the economy. It turns private savings into investments and economic activity. It triggers domestic demand that is catered to by small local construction companies across all regions of Europe evenly. Therefore, renovating buildings is a key tool to support the EU’s socio-economic recovery after this crisis, and leaders and governments should act to make this happen.

 

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German Council presidency should straighten out its energy priorities and include building renovations

Today the German Government unveiled its EU Council Presidency priorities which lack a clear reference to the building renovation. As businesses and investors having energy efficiency and energy demand reduction at the heart of our activities, we believe that the German government lost a great opportunity to prioritise a sector which, more than any other, can deliver economic growth, local jobs creation and GHG emission reduction.

“We welcome the German government pledge to learn from the current crisis to be better prepared for the future and the focus on climate change and digitisation. At the same time, we strongly encourage the inclusion of the construction sector and in particular the renovation of the European building stock among the Council presidency priorities” – said Monica Frassoni, President of the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE).

“For every million invested in the renovation of our homes we can create an average of 18 jobs. All the economic stimulus measures across the world address buildings. Finally the European Union is working on a flagship Renovation Wave initiative to trigger investments and accelerate the transformation of European society and economy towards climate neutrality. Therefore, it’s difficult to understand the decision to exclude buildings from the presidency’s priorities.”

“We have a lot of work to do to recover from the Covid-19 crisis and buildings must be at the centre of any rational energy, industrial and environmental strategy. With this in mind, we wish the German Government a successful presidency and look forward to constructive cooperation” – concluded Monica Frassoni.

 

Download the press release here (PDF)

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