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26th Sep 2022

Opinion

Building performance - win-win for climate and EU Commission?

  • 36 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are caused by buildings (Photo: VELUX / ESTIF)
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The executive vice-president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, must be feeling the pressure.

As the commissioner in charge of the European Green Deal and the entire green transition of the European economy, a great responsibility lies on his shoulders.

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With the official adoption of the European Climate Law in the spring, the Union's climate ambitions are now set in stone. A 55-percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will have to become reality. Everyone's eyes are on him.

If well conducted, the process will give the commission a chance to not only cut down massively on energy consumption in the Union but could also boost jobs and growth in key sectors in the economy.

Fortunately, the commission has been preparing for this moment ever since the von der Leyen commission began its mandate. On 14 July the Commission launched its long-awaited Fit for 55 legislative package intended to bring the ambitious goals of the climate law into concrete legislation.

Many regard the package as the moment for European climate and energy policy. However, there might be reason to wait just a little longer, as the perhaps most crucial piece of legislation in this legislative mandate will be launched in the autumn: the revision of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD).

It might sound like a bold claim that one should focus on the EPBD, when the Fit for 55 package is still being scrutinised all over Europe.

But considering that buildings are responsible for 40 percent of the total energy consumption in the EU, the EPBD will be the make it or break it moment for the green transition.

Leaky houses

Moreover, underlining the EPBD's importance, 36 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in the EU are caused by buildings. In other words, the revision of directive will make it the keystone legislation of the European Green Deal that will either support or undermine the entire European green transition.

Luckily, the commission seems to be headed in the right direction. In May, the commissioner for energy, Kadri Simson, visited the European Parliament's industry, research and energy committee and shed some light on what we can expect from the revision.

Among the most promising ambitions, the commissioner stated that she is currently considering "extending the obligation for an annual rate of renovation of public buildings to all public buildings".

This idea must be applauded for its ambition as well as its simplicity. An annual mandatory renovation rate for all public buildings will be an enormous undertaking but a crucial one, nonetheless.

It is often said that the cheapest energy is the one we do not use in the first place.

As such, energy renovations of buildings will not only contribute to the EU's climate ambitions but will also do so in a fairly cheap manner. Moreover, many European businesses are more than capable of delivering and installing the green energy solutions that are necessary to make the intended energy savings.

By making a mandatory renovation rate for all public buildings, the EU would be strengthening the market for green energy efficiency solutions and thus creating jobs in both manufacturing as well as construction.

It the annual rate of renovation was set to, for example three percent, this would in turn mean that the vast majority of all public buildings would be renovated in 2050, where the EU has committed itself to become climate neutral.

As the European climate law also states, the Union would even have to deliver negative emissions after 2050 which only underscores the need for such action.

To achieve the ambitious energy efficiency goals, one would also have to consider the role of digitalisation.

Smart energy systems and solutions will be of paramount importance to ensure the optimal utilisation of our green energy solutions. Intelligent usage of modern energy efficiency tools is dependent on data.

Upskilling

This emphasises the need for training and upskilling of the industry workers producing the green solutions, the construction workers installing them, as well as the users of the buildings themselves. The commission will have to keep this aspect in mind when considering the revision of the EPBD.

Finally, the EPBD presents a long range of untapped synergy potential with other sectors. A common argument against the greening of the mobility sector is that there are not enough charging stations for electric vehicles.

But with the revision of the EPBD, the commission could introduce provisions requiring the installation of charging stations in parking lots connected to residential or office buildings when they undergo energy renovations.

In other words, the revision of the EPBD can be a win-win situation with the right amount of political will and ambition.

Author bio

Tom Deleu is general secretary of the European Federation of Bulding and Woodworkers (EFBWW). Gunde Odgaard is president of the EFBWW's standing committee building.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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