Insulation of a multi-storey building in Riga. Photo: © fotokaleinar / Shutterstock.com
Energy savings in buildings – an untapped potential
Heating and cooling of buildings is behind a third of CO2 emissions in the EU. Less than 1% of the stock is renovated each year; member states must step up and increase the pace.
Buildings account for 40 percent of Europe’s energy consumption and are responsible for more than 33 percent of the bloc’s CO2 emissions. Inaction in the building sector in recent years has already cost the EU four years of potential progress towards the climate neutrality goal1. The current recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is not only vital for achieving the EU’s climate goals but is also an opportunity to create better residential and commercial buildings while reducing energy bills.
For the recast of EPBD it is important to establish a Whole Life Carbon regulatory roadmap. Buildings can be constructed on zero-emission construction sites, creating positive energy buildings. However, the standing time is the longest phase to address, as 80 percent of existing buildings will still be there in the year 2050.
Two-thirds of the buildings in the EU have poor energy performance. Under current policies, less than one percent of buildings are renovated each year, while data suggests the number of Europeans unable to provide enough heat in their homes has risen from 36 million to 50 million since 2020.2
The main priority for renovating buildings is to achieve the proposed target of three percent renovation per year, by introducing a European framework for the Minimum Energy Performance Standard of buildings (MEPS). This will make renovation mandatory for the worst-performing buildings in Europe. Recent data shows that retrofitting buildings in Europe could create 1.2 million additional jobs and increase GDP by one percent by 2050.3
Francesca Andreolli, researcher at the think tank ECCO states “Energy efficiency is a strategic key option for lowering energy prices, increasing energy security and tackling energy poverty. Although Italian fiscal supporting schemes for buildings’ renovations represent an advanced example at European level, they are affected by temporal instability, regulatory fragmentation and weak effectiveness. in order to make energy efficiency and heating decarbonization good options for economic growth and energy security, a long-term planning for building decarbonization coupled with an adequate financial support mechanism is needed.” 4
Measures at the EU level should target energy use and emission hotspots,especially heating and cooling but progress is slow at local level and is hampered by a number of obstacles. CAN Europe has released a new report on how to address the economic and non-economic barriers.
Mónica Vidal, Renewable Heating campaigner at CAN Europe states that “When it comes to the ongoing fossil fuel crisis, the elephant in the room is the heating installations running on fossil fuels, leading to rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions and energy poverty. If we are to protect the people and the climate in winters to come, clear policy objectives, more financial support, a skilled workforce and easy access to independent information for all, are essential to transform European countries’ outdated heating systems to renewable and efficient models.”5
Stronger policy and financial frameworks across Europe can overcome the barriers to renewable heating, and the report include a list of key recommendations (see box).
These measures would transform European buildings where more than 450 million people live, study and work, into sustainable and climate-friendly buildings. Buildings urgently needs to become renewable, accessible, efficient and affordable for all. This will entail positive impacts on peoples’ everyday lives, to make them more comfortable, safe, and healthy.
1 Buildings Performance Institute Europe 2022, https://www.bpie.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/BPIE_EU-Buildings-Climate...
2Euractiv, Mike Peirce et al, Insulating the economy: why the EU must aim high on its buildings directive https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/opinion/insulating-t...
4Press release for report “Embracing a renewable heating revolution in our buildings! Overcoming barriers and going beyond fossil fuels heating”, found here https://caneurope.org/content/uploads/2023/02/Clearing-the-hurdles-to-Re...
Article is based on: CAN Europe’s report “Embracing a renewable heating revolution in our buildings! Overcoming barriers and going beyond fossil fuels heating”, published 22 February 2023, found here https://caneurope.org/renewable-heating-barriers-solutions/
Wean off fossil fuels:
Clear policy objectives:
A skilled workforce:
Stronger supply chain: