"In the ‘two stage’ scenario we see the highest level of energy savings, one of the lowest investment costs and the highest CO2 emissions reductions,” said Adrian Joyce, the secretary-general of EuroAce, an alliance of energy efficient building companies.
The plan’s moderate ambition would match market conditions and manufacturers requirements better, Joyce told EurActiv, with second renovations only coming on stream between 2030 and 2035, when new technologies and a learning curve had enabled them to.
Renovate Europe, an energy efficiency pressure group, is now considering the two-stage idea as having "stand out" potential to assuage EU member state reluctance to invest in "promising" energy savings, during a fiscal crisis.
Europe’s buildings account for 40% of primary energy consumption and 36% of the continent’s carbon emissions, so a massive programme of building renovations will be necessary if Europe is to meet its 2050 objectives of an 80-95% cut in CO2 pollution.
European buildings take up 24 billion square metres of space – an area the size of Belgium – according to the new study ‘Europe’s Buildings under the microscope’, which was written by Buildings Performance Institute Europe to coincide with Renovate Europe Day (11 October).
They could be renovated in one of five scenarios, according to the report: Baseline, Slow and Shallow, Fast and Shallow, Medium, Deep, or Two-Stage.
Only the Deep or Two-Stage renovations would allow Europe to meet its 2050 goal. The deep renovation option would also create 1.1 million new jobs and offer 68% savings on today’s energy levels.
But EuroAce says neither option is currently being welcomed at the Brussels door. "Our feeling is that across Europe ‘slow and shallow’ renovations have taken place and that is the ‘business as usual’ case which is just not up to the mark,” Joyce said.
The EU’s energy efficiency directive recently proposed a 3% buildings renovation target for heat loss, but only for public buildings – 12% of Europe’s stock – just to minimum energy performance requirements, and with opt outs for social housing and small properties.
EuroAce supports a deeper 3% target per annum for all European buildings, without exceptions.
Other energy efficiency sectors are more accommodating to current financial winds. "The more expensive the renovation - as in a ‘deep’ scenario - the less likely it is," Thomas Nowak, the secretary-general of the European Heat Pump Association told EurActiv. "So if this means to start quick and shallow, it is an important first step."
The key for him was convincing building owners of the long-term value of renovation by legislation, but also “calculation tools, information campaigns and for a limited time, subsidies.”
“We don’t think you need to do a full deep renovation where you take everything down but the walls and roof,” he added. “With heat pumps you can balance costs with a reasonable amount of energy optimisation for a building.”
After the 2008 economic crash, some economists talked of stimulating the world’s economy with a ‘New green Deal’ that would overhaul and clean up the world energy supply systems.
But this proved short-lived, as €4.6 trillion of aid and guarantees were funnelled to Europe’s financial sector in three years, according to the EU’s president Jose Manuel Barroso.
By comparison, efficiency advocates seek €2.8 trillion of investment over 40 years to renovate Europe’s building stock. This, they say, would offer huge long-term financial savings, as well as vital environmental benefits.
'Boring is the new sexy'
Adrian Joyce professed himself “mystified” as to why wealthy EU countries – such as the UK – with a great capacity to make building efficiency savings were currently lagging, and holding back the rest of Europe.
He suggested that such problems might “evaporate overnight” if energy efficiency measures could somehow be made more visible and desirable.
“One of the objectives of our campaign is to make ‘boring’ the new ‘sexy’,” he said.