Europe’s 27 energy ministers on Friday (11 June) backed calls to double Europe’s building renovation rates by 2030 in order to repair their crisis-hit economies, tackle energy poverty and “create green buildings for the future”.
A significant effort is needed to renovate Europe’s building stock and this must be done in line with the energy efficiency first principle, the ministers said in a statement adopted on Friday (11 June) at the conclusion of the EU’s Energy Council.
The European Commission tabled a renovation wave strategy in October 2020 as part of the European Green Deal, with the aim of reaching a climate neutral building sector by 2050.
Greening Europe’s buildings is key to reaching net zero emissions by mid-century as they are responsible for 40% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.
At their meeting on Friday, EU ministers emphasised “the need to at least double energy-related renovation rates by 2030 and to promote deep energy renovations” to improve energy performance and create cost savings, as well as replace carbon-intensive heaters with renewable energy.
These changes must be done while taking into account national, regional and local circumstances, they added, saying this is key for EU countries, which face different challenges when it comes to renovation and energy poverty.
Central and eastern European countries, for instance, have many draughty Soviet apartment blocks with old heating systems while southern European countries need to ensure that houses are both warm enough for the winter and cool enough for the summer.
Renovating schools, hospitals, universities and other social infrastructure should be prioritised alongside the worst-performing buildings, taking into account the income of those who live there, said the ministers’ conclusions.
Doubling renovation “not enough” to meet EU climate goals
However, experts have warned that doubling renovation by 2030 is not enough and that it needs to be tripled otherwise there will be huge pressure on renovation in the 2030s and 2040s.
Still, the European Commission welcomed the decision from EU energy ministers, saying a doubling of the renovation rate will help sustain the momentum.
“Boosting building renovation is a key factor in achieving EU climate and energy objectives, but one of the toughest challenges is to ensure that the renovation wave is not just an attractive slogan and that things do change on the ground,” said Kadri Simson, the EU’s energy commissioner.
The Commission has touted building renovation as a way of creating local jobs after the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it also helps tackle energy poverty and greenhouse gas emissions. This has been reflected in EU countries’ plans to spend the EU’s €750 billion recovery fund.
“Renovation is becoming a priority policy across Europe – almost all member states now have long term renovation strategies in place and energy efficient renovation programmes are a core component of many recovery and resilience plans, contributing to a much needed economic stimulus and job creation,” said Simson.