Eu triggers “renovation wave”

On 14.10.In 2020, the European Commission published its strategy for a wave of renovations to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. The commission intends to at least double the renovation rate in the next ten years and to ensure greater energy and resource efficiency through renovations. This should help improve the quality of life of the people who live in and use these buildings, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe, promote digitalization and reuse and recycle more materials. By 2030, 35 million buildings could be renovated and up to 160,000 additional green jobs created in the construction sector.

Thermal insulation on Berlin apartment building (energy retrofit) – Photo © Gerhard Hofmann for Solarify

Buildings account for approx. 40% of energy consumption in the EU and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions due to energy consumption.(*) But each year, only 1% of the building stock becomes more energy efficient through renovations. Thus, it is crucial that effective measures are taken to make Europe climate neutral by 2050. Nearly 34 million Europeans cannot afford to heat their homes. Measures to increase energy efficiency therefore also serve to combat energy poverty. They have a positive impact on people's health and well-being and help keep energy bills low. The Commission also published today a recommendation addressed to Member States on combating energy poverty.

Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans, responsible for the European Green Deal, said: "In Europe, lighting, heating or cooling one's own four walls should not be a luxury that has devastating consequences for finances or the planet. The wave of renovations will improve the buildings in which we work, live and learn. At the same time, our impact on the environment is reduced and thousands of jobs are created for the people of Europe. We need better buildings if we care about better reconstruction."

Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy, added: "The green recovery starts with all of us at home. The renovation wave includes measures to address the many obstacles that currently make renovations complicated, expensive and time-consuming, and prevent many urgent projects from getting off the ground. We will propose better ways to measure the benefits of renovations. Minimum energy performance standards, more EU financial support and technical assistance will encourage financing through "green" mortgages and promote the use of renewable energy for heating and cooling. All this will bring crucial improvements for owners, tenants and public authorities.

The strategy prioritizes action in three areas: decarbonization of heating and cooling, tackling energy poverty and measures for the least energy efficient buildings, and renovation of public buildings (schools, hospitals, administrative buildings, etc.).). The Commission proposes to remove the obstacles that exist throughout the renovation chain – from the planning and financing of a project to its completion – through a series of measures and instruments in the areas of financing and technical assistance.

The strategy will include the following key actions:

  • Stricter regulations, standards, and information related to building energy performance to make renovations more attractive in the public and private sectors. These include phasing in mandatory minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings, updated energy performance certificate requirements, and possible expansion of renovation requirements for the public sector;
  • Ensure accessible and targeted financing, including through the European flagship "Renovate" and "Advance" projects envisaged in the Build and Resilience Facility under NextGenerationEU, simplified rules for combining different financing channels, and multiple incentives for private financing;
  • Increasing capacity to prepare and carry out renovation projects. This ranges from technical assistance to national and local authorities to training and qualification measures in favor of workers who fill the new "green jobs";
  • Expanding the market for sustainable building products and services; including integrating new materials and nature-based solutions, as well as revising legislation on the marketing of building products and setting targets for reuse and recycling;
  • A new European Bauhaus, an interdisciplinary project that will be chaired by an advisory board of external experts from academia, architecture, design, art, planning, and civil society. By summer 2021, the commission will launch a broad, participatory process for collaborative design before establishing a network of five foundation construction houses in 2022 in various EU countries.
  • Developing district-based approaches for local communities to integrate renewable energy and digitalization-based solutions to create energy-balanced districts where consumers become prosumers selling energy to the grid. The strategy also includes an affordable housing initiative designed for 100 districts.

As part of the review of the Renewable Energy Directive scheduled for June 2021, consideration is being given to giving greater prominence to renewable heating and cooling targets and introducing a minimum level of energy from renewable sources in buildings. The Commission will also explore how the EU budget could be used to fund national energy efficiency and energy saving programs tailored to lower-income groups, alongside revenues from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The ecodesign framework is evolving to bring efficient, building-friendly products to market and promote their use.

The renovation wave is not just about making the existing building stock more energy efficient and carbon neutral. It can trigger a sweeping transformation of our cities and the built environment. It may be an opportunity to initiate a forward-looking process that balances sustainability and aesthetics. As announced by President von der Leyen, a new European Bauhaus will promote a new European aesthetic that combines function and inventiveness. We want to ensure that a livable environment is not a luxury for anyone, as well as reconcile affordability and artistic aspiration in a sustainable future.

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