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EU riding a renovation wave to recovery

The European Commission has announced a Renovation Wave strategy to improve the energy performance of buildings and in the process cut emissions, boost recovery, and reduce energy poverty. Money for this work will be made available under the EU’s €750 billion COVID-19 recovery fund.

The Commission aims to at least double renovation rates in the next 10 years and make sure renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency. It estimates that by 2030, 35 million buildings could be renovated and up to 160,000 additional green jobs created in the construction sector.

According to the Commission, buildings are responsible for about 40 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption, and 36 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from energy. But only one per cent of buildings undergo energy efficient renovation every year.

With nearly 34 million Europeans unable to afford keeping their homes heated, the plan is also a response to energy poverty. The Commission says it aims to support the health and wellbeing of people and reduce their energy bills.

“We want everyone in Europe to have a home they can light, heat, or cool without breaking the bank or breaking the planet,” says Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans. “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.”

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 European Partnership for Energy and the Environment (EPEE) has applauded the initiative.

“The Commission is right to target public buildings,” says EPEE Director-General Andrea Voigt. “Schools and hospitals are the low-hanging fruit – these are the buildings where action can be taken quickest and the rewards to be reaped are greatest.

“Not only can we aggregate and scale such projects at a rapid pace, but these are also the buildings where adequate indoor air quality and thermal comfort are most important for increasing productivity as well as health and wellbeing.”

The EPEE has also stressed the importance of considering the overall energy performance and health benefits of the building, including technical building systems like heat pumps and air conditioners. It says that by accelerating the switch to efficient state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems, the Renovation Wave could boost both energy efficiency and indoor environment quality of European homes and workplaces.

The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) has also backed the plan.

“The Renovation wave is as a huge opportunity for our sector to improve indoor environment quality along energy performance of our buildings,” says REHVA Managing Director Anita Derjanecz.

“I hope it will govern the high-quality and ambitious implementation in member states. I also welcome that the strategy acknowledges the key role of independent technical assistance in quality and upscaling or renovation.”

To read more about the Renovation Wave strategy, click here.

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