Energy efficiency: green recovery ‘made in Europe’

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

This article featured in the summer 2020 edition of European Energy Innovation magazine

The Covid-19 pandemic is highly impacting our societies and is a major shock for the European and global economy. In this difficult context, the European Union has the opportunity to relaunch its economy guided by its long-term climate commitments, namely becoming climate neutral by 2050, while at the same time providing support to its many citizens who suddenly lost their work and income.

The recovery packages being prepared should not only aim at countering the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They should prepare the ground for a more prosperous, resilient, and sustainable future for our continent and the world.

Energy efficiency can help policymakers address the multiple challenges we are all faced with.

Energy efficiency is paramount for climate mitigation. Through existing technologies, it is possible to reduce energy consumption, increase the efficiency of the entire energy system and accelerate the integration of renewables. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), 76% of the European greenhouse gas emission reductions required to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C must come from energy efficiency.

In the European Union, energy efficiency is one of the pillars of the European Green Deal. In the recent proposal of a European Climate Law, energy efficiency is part of the defining elements of the EU’s trajectory towards climate neutrality by 2050. Along the same lines, the current political focus on buildings renovations indicates that the EU institutions recognize the economic, social and environmental impact of a transition towards a highly efficient building stock. Last but not least, the European Commission recently highlighted in its EU Industrial Strategy that reducing emissions across industry, namely the most energy-intensive ones, will greatly depend on the wide implementation of efficiency measures and on the Energy Efficiency First principle.

When it comes to industrial strategy, economic growth and job creation, indeed, the full application of the Energy Efficiency First principle to all energy policymaking, planning and investments, can be a real change maker for the energy efficiency value chain and, as a consequence of this, for the European economy.

Our continent hosts some of the most innovative and successful energy efficiency companies in the world. The members of the European Alliance to Save Energy are global “champions” that export technologies and drive innovation. Hundreds of other players, especially SMEs, operate in this field across Europe.

Read the full article in European Energy Innovation

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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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