CCC Insights: ‘Deep renovation of the existing building stock is vital for meeting Europe’s energy targets’

Heating and cooling buildings accounts for some 40% of Europe’s energy consumption, which makes this sector a key target of EU energy reduction plans. But while the EU’s standards for new construction is on course for boosting energy efficiency in that sector, there is a major gap in Europe’s energy plans: how to deal with the energy footprint of the existing building stock, 90% of which will still be with us and still occupied in 2050.

Leading the Campaign to reduce energy waste in existing buildings is the European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EuroACE), which in 2011 launched the ‘Renovate Europe’ Campaign.  EuroACE brings together household names in building products and services such as Rockwool, Knauf, Velux and Johnson Controls. Some 37 partner companies and associations are behind the Campaign to reduce energy waste in existing buildings.


“Europe will not be able to achieve its 2050 energy reduction targets unless it dramatically steps up efforts to cut energy waste from existing buildings,” stresses EuroACE Secretary General, Adrian Joyce.
“The Renovate Europe Campaign was launched specifically to tackle this major stumbling block in the EU’s energy saving plans.”

The Campaign has set a goal of reducing the energy demand of the existing building stock by 80% by 2050 (compared to 2005 levels). “We have the technology, processes, products and services to achieve acceptable energy performance in existing buildings, but reducing energy waste is a challenge that needs joined-up action from industry, public authorities together with political will at the top level,” Joyce stresses.

“The upside is totally positive: a Europe-wide energy renovation campaign can create 2 million new jobs in the construction sector by 2020, reduce fuel poverty and increase health of building occupants. Energy efficient renovation of buildings is a win-win-win for all involved.”

Legal overhaul in 2016

The energy performance of new buildings is well catered for under the EU’s Building Performance directives (EPBD). The missing link is how to reduce the energy demand of the existing building stock – typically residential, office, schools, hospitals, hotels etc.

“In 2050, 90% of the old energy guzzling building stock will still be here. This is a major issue for the EU as its energy and climate targets cannot be achieved without seriously tackling the existing building stock.  The Renovate Europe Campaign is trying to stimulate action at all levels,” Joyce stresses.

The Campaign has targeted European politicians to spread the message and close to 100 members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from more than 20 countries and from 7 political groups have now joined Renovate Europe’s call to reduce energy waste in Europe’s building stock by signing the Renovate Europe Manifesto.

Action in Brussels is particularly important as the parallel revisions of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) in 2016 presents a major opportunity to strengthen EU legislation to stop energy waste in buildings.

Targeting these legislative reviews, the Institutional Investor’s Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) has, for example, called on the EU to set a binding long term goal to bring the entire EU buildings sector up to a nearly-zero energy standard by 2050. This call is entirely consistent with the ambition of the Renovate Europe Campaign, which has added its voice to the call.

“To see an investor’s group which holds over €13 trillion of assets under management, calling for ambitious action on the energy renovation of buildings is very encouraging for our work,” Joyce comments.

Customised regional solutions

EuroACE stresses that any solution has to fit into local regulatory and cultural environment. “It is clear that one solution is not going to fit all renovation situations. We need an integrated answer for energy performance, not single solutions,” he stresses.

Developing energy waste solutions at national level requires a customised approach for every territory. “We have realised that there has to be top-down action by government, supported by bottom up action at local level. And we in Brussels are trying to push action at European level.”

“Our key approach is to let the local partners determine the strategy. It is horses for courses”

The Campaign’s national partners (coming from 13 countries) know the political and cultural matrix in their territory. The network is strongly focused on developing case studies and examples of best practice that can be applied where appropriate. The priorities vary according to country where, depending on local situations, the focus may vary from public sector, to social housing or to the private sector.

“Our key approach is to let the local partners determine the strategy. It is ‘horses for courses’ and we are trying to understand the dynamics of local markets and find, with our partners, the most appropriate local solutions,” he adds.

Political bottleneck

The biggest bottleneck surrounds the lack of long-term vision and commitment at the political level.

Examples such as ‘Energiesprong’ ( in the Netherlands have demonstrated the effectiveness of a strategy which looks to see where we need to be in the future, and then ‘backcasting’ to map out the best way to get there.

“With a clear vision, key players such as government, local authorities, the construction sector and financial partners can be brought together around a coherent strategy. Piecemeal approaches are never effective in this context,” he says.

April 11, 2016