SPECIAL REPORT: European Union governments are ignoring the benefits of building stock renovation for energy efficiency and security, new research obtained by EurActiv has found.
Member states have only half-heartedly embraced or are simply non-compliant with the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive, which came into force two years ago, according to analysis by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe.
Under article 4 of the directive, countries are obliged to publish national renovation strategies. The plans are needed to drive investment in renovation and in the supply chain, which could have a knock-on effect on economic growth and employment.
But six EU nations have missed the April publication deadline by six months. Greece, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal and Slovenia face possible infringement proceedings from the Commission.
The Buildings Performance Institute Europe found that out of a sample of ten submitted strategies, just four complied with the directive.
The think tank reviewed the strategies of Austria, Belgium (Brussels Capital Region), Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.
It rated the strategies against the five requirements of article four of the Energy Efficiency Directive before scoring them on their overall level of compliance.
A pass grade was set at 70%. Austria was the worst-performing of the countries sampled with just a 28% score.
Plans by Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands were not compliant, according to the analysis. Those findings are surprising because those countries have traditionally been efficiency leaders.
France, German and Brussels Capital region are just partially compliant. The research showed that the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania and Spain’s strategies were acceptable but there was still room for improvement.
Oliver Rapf, executive director of BPIE, said: “Our analysis finds a very piecemeal approach of the strategies, not living up to the intention of the directive. Governments are missing out on the opportunities that the renovation of the building stock provides to address the challenges of energy security, economic stimulus and climate change.”
Energy security is a particularly hot topic after the Ukraine crisis exposed the EU’s dependence on Russian gas. The Renovate Europe campaign states that deep renovation could save the EU the equivalent of four billion barrels of imported foreign oil.
The ten strategies did not set out a clear path and lacked bold and determined action plans, Rapf said.
None of them gave the investor certainty needed to push forward renovation and economic growth, he added. And none of the strategies were good enough to be considered a “best practice” example
BPIE argues that member states need to take immediate steps to improve their renovation strategies. The required level of ambition, sense of urgency and strategic importance are still lacking, according to the think tank.
Velux Group is a manufacturer of roof windows and modular skylights. Vice president of stakeholder communication and sustainability Ingrid Reumert said stopping energy waste could kick-start the economy.
“There’s a lot of opportunities to be missed in the countries with no or less ambitious renovation strategies. It is not only about reducing energy use but also about green growth, health and jobs. And, according to our customers all over Europe, that is what really matters,” she said.
The Renovate Europe campaign estimates that deep renovation of the EU building stock could create up to two million jobs.
The findings come just ten days after EU leaders watered down a proposed 30% energy efficiency target in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework to 27%.
Heads of state and government also set a legally binding target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to 1990 level.
Buildings account for 40% of all energy consumption. They also emit 36% of the total CO2 emissions in the EU. Modern technology is able to reduce up to 80% of buildings’ energy demands, according to Renovate Europe.
There is “great, untapped potential” in sharpening the focus on the renovation of the EU’s buildings, according to Velux.
The BPIE report will be published on 3 November on Renovate Europe Day.
The European Union's Energy Efficiency Directive in late 2012 was expected to trigger the largest revamp of Europe's existing building stock to date and set new standards for public procurement and energy audits.
But new research, obtained exclusively by EurActiv, has found that some member states are not complying with the directive's requirements.
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.