SPECIAL REPORT: The European Union’s senior civil servant in charge of energy met with the EU Secretary-General last night, to push for a slice of Jean-Claude Juncker’s €300 billion investment package to go to renovation.
Director-General Dominique Ristori told delegates at a Brussels conference for Renovate Europe Day he could not pre-judge any decision by the college of Commissioners.
He said yesterday afternoon (5 November), he would meet Catherine Day, the secretary-general, that evening to discuss the investment plan.
“We will present energy efficiency as an important component of this package,” he said. “We are meeting in terms of preparation for that.”
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters yesterday that he planned to unveil the €300 billion plan next month, with a view to EU leaders deciding on it in December. It is unclear at this stage where the money would come from.
The package had the potential to relaunch the economy, Ristori said. He would argue the renovation of buildings would not only reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency and energy security but could also create jobs and help get the economy moving again.
Ristori stressed that this would require the “full mobilisation of all actors” from the construction sector, EU leaders, national and regional leaders, including mayors of towns and cities.
The challenge of renovating existing buildings should be approached in the same way, no matter where in the EU they were, he said.
“I see a real possibility to use that [the package] as a real opportunity. We [DG Energy] will prepare for that and we will see,” he added.
Ristori had earlier defended the 2030 climate and energy targets agreed by EU leaders at the October European Council.
Heads of state and government watered down the Commission’s proposed target of a 30% increase in energy efficiency by 2030.
“It was a big challenge to reach agreement,” he said, “Some might say it’s not ideal, but ‘ideal’ does not exist in Europe.”
He said that the fact that the leaders of both Poland and the Netherlands had expressed satisfaction with the deal, after being bitterly divided, showed what had been achieved.
Many industry representatives, MEPs and climate campaigners were disappointed with the 27% target agreed.
Responding to a question put by EurActiv, Ristori said it was important to understand how ambitious the EU goals were in comparison with countries such as India, China and Japan.
He said that structural funds and the EU budget needed to be put to the service of greater energy efficiency.
“[We need] to implement concrete measures as rapidly as possible,” he said, “We have the capacity of the Multiannual Financial Framework [the budget].
If those measures were put in place at national and level with a developed programme, the EU could be successful in increasing efficiency.
“It is time to identify priority sectors,” he said before mentioning housing and transport.
Existing building stock should be the focus
There is EU legislation covering the energy efficiency of new buildings, but speakers at the conference said that new buildings were not the problem.
Agostino Renna, president of GE Lighting EMEA, said, “In Europe, there isn’t a whole lot of new construction going on. The buildings we have to deal with have already been constructed.”
The private sector would follow the business opportunity of retrofit deep renovation, he said. But only if the right, stable policy frameworks in place.
The Renovate Europe campaign wants to reduce EU buildings’ energy demand by 80%, by 2050, compared to 2005. That can be done with existing technology, and would save the EU more than 30% of its total energy use.
Adrian Joyce, campaign director for Renovate Europe, said the building sector was the one sector that could do the most to secure energy security.
The importance of energy security and the EU’s dependence on Russian gas has been highlighted by the Ukraine crisis.
“The building sector in the EU has got to be seen as a key priority for EU energy policy,” he said.
Joyce said that every single person in the EU pays €2.75 a day to import energy. That would cost a family of four €350 a month.
“You can practically live on that in some countries,” Joyce said.
Greater efficiency would reduce dependence on the “boomerang” of energy-supplying conflict zones around the EU, which was highly vulnerable to shock, he added.
Jean-Claude Juncker has proposed a €300 billion investment package to kickstart the EU's economy (read more here) .
EU leaders on 23 October committed by 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40%, and increase energy efficiency and renewables by at least 27%.
French President François Hollande said the deal would send a clear message to big polluters such as China and the United States ahead of UN talks in Paris next year to agree global legally binding greenhouse gas emissions.
The Renovate Europe campaign says that, thanks to modern technology, buildings' energy demands can be cut by 80%. But, it adds, in order for that to happen, there needs to be an effective regulatory and legislative framework in place.
The 27% efficiency target was widely criticised as being too weak, given the significant cuts in emissions, renovating buildings can achieve.