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EU adopts Renovation Wave Strategy to make buildings energy efficient

The European Commission adopted on October 14 a series of proposals and reports on energy policy which are fundamental to the implementation of the EU Green Deal and to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 as well as emission reduction targets by in 2030.

The Renovation Wave Strategy, which was adopted by the Commission, aims to double Office building renovation rate, save energy, tackle energy poverty, and decarbonise heating and cooling.

The Commission aims to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years and make sure renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency. This will enhance the quality of life for people living in and using the buildings, reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, foster digitalisation and improve the reuse and recycling of materials, the Commission said in a press release, adding that by 2030, 35 million buildings could be renovated and up to 160,000 additional green jobs created in the construction sector.

“We want everyone in Europe to have a home they can light, heat, or cool without breaking the bank or breaking the planet,” EU Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said. The Renovation Wave will improve the places where we work, live and study, while reducing our impact on the environment and providing jobs for thousands of Europeans. We need better buildings if we want to build back better,” he added.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson noted that the green recovery starts at home. “With the Renovation Wave we will tackle the many barriers that today make renovation complex, expensive and time consuming, holding back much needed action. We will propose better ways to measure renovation benefits, minimum energy performance standards, more EU funding and technical assistance encourage green mortgages and support more renewables in heating and cooling. This will be a game changer for home-owners, tenants and public authorities,” Simson said.

Buildings are responsible for about 40% of the EU’s energy consumption, and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. But only 1% of buildings undergo energy efficient renovation every year, so effective action is crucial to making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. With nearly 34 million Europeans unable to afford keeping their homes heated, public policies to promote energy efficient renovation are also a response to energy poverty, support the health and wellbeing of people and help reduce their energy bills.

The Commission has also published on October 14 a Recommendation for Member States on tackling energy poverty. The strategy will prioritise action in three areas: decarbonisation of heating and cooling; tackling energy poverty and worst-performing buildings; and renovation of public buildings such as schools, hospitals and administrative buildings. The Commission proposes to break down existing barriers throughout the renovation chain – from the conception of a project to its funding and completion – with a set of policy measures, funding tools and technical assistance instruments, the Commission said.

Commission adopts EU Methane Strategy

The European Commission also presented on October 14 an EU strategy to reduce methane emissions. Methane is the second biggest contributor to climate change, after carbon dioxide. It is also a potent local air pollutant causing serious health problems. Tackling methane emissions is therefore essential to reaching our 2030 climate targets and the 2050 climate neutrality goal, as well as contributing to the Commission’s zero-pollution ambition.

According the Commission, this strategy sets out measures to cut methane emissions in Europe and internationally. It presents legislative and non-legislative actions in the energy, agriculture and waste sectors, which account for around 95% of methane emissions associated with human activity worldwide. The Commission will work with the EU’s international partners and with industry to achieve emission reductions along the supply chain.

“To become the first climate-neutral continent, the European Union will have to cut all greenhouse gases,” Timmermans said, stressing that methane is the second most powerful greenhouse gas and an important cause of air pollution. “Our methane strategy ensures emissions cuts in all sectors, especially agriculture, energy, and waste. It also creates opportunities for rural areas to produce biogas from waste. The European Union’s satellite technology will enable us to closely monitor emissions and help raise international standards,” he said.

For her part, Simson said that while the energy, agriculture and waste sectors all have a role to play, energy is where emissions can be cut the quickest with least costs. “Europe will lead the way, but we cannot do this alone. We need to work with our international partners to address the methane emissions of the energy we import,” she said.

According to the Commission, one of the priorities under the strategy is to improve measurement and reporting of methane emissions. The level of monitoring currently varies between sectors and Member States and across the international community. In addition to EU-level measures to step up measurement, verification and reporting standards, the Commission will support the establishment of an international methane emission observatory in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition and the International Energy Agency. The EU’s Copernicus satellite programme will also improve surveillance and help to detect global super-emitters and identify major methane leaks.

To reduce methane emissions in the energy sector, an obligation to improve detection and repair of leaks in gas infrastructure will be proposed and legislation to prohibit routine flaring and venting practices will be considered, the Commission said, adding that it will engage in a dialogue with its international partners and explore possible standards, targets or incentives for energy imports to the EU, and the tools for enforcing them.

In the waste sector, the Commission will consider further action to improve the management of landfill gas, harnessing its potential for energy use while reducing emissions, and will review the relevant legislation on landfill in 2024.

Progress made on the clean energy transition

Finally, the Commission adopted on October 14 the 2020 State of the Energy Union Report and its accompanying documents focused on different aspects of EU energy policy. This year’s Report is the first one since the adoption of the European Green Deal, and looks at the Energy Union’s contribution to Europe’s long-term climate goals.

Individual assessments of the 27 National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) analyse the pathway and ambition of each Member State towards the current 2030 climate and energy targets. The overall assessment shows that the Member States are capable of meeting these targets and are mostly making good progress towards them. The Reports underline the contribution the energy sector can make to the EU’s recovery from the economic crisis created by COVID-19. The Energy Union has so far proven to be robust in the face of the challenges placed on our energy systems and energy workers by the pandemic.

“The National Energy and Climate Plans are an essential tool for our work with Member States to plan the policies and investments for a green and just transition,” Simson said, adding, “Now is the time to turn these plans into reality and use them to lead us out of the Covid-19 crisis with new jobs and a more competitive Energy Union”.

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