Building industry demands stronger leadership on energy efficiency

Energy efficiency renovation is vital for Europe's ageing building stock. [Shutterstock]

Leading voices from Europe’s building industry have called on the Commission to do more to improve the energy efficiency of Europe’s building stock, saying this would benefit the economy and the climate.

A group of 42 CEOs from some of Europe’s major construction and building materials companies have signed a letter to European Commission, urging it to show “vision” in its revision of the Energy Performance of Building Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive, which is due to take place this autumn.

Addressed to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Vice-President Frans Timmermans, the letter warned that the EU’s target of a “Nearly Zero Energy” building stock by 2050 could not be achieved without a “high level political commitment”. This, the signatories said, would give the renovation industry the certainty it needs to boost investment in the sector and put the EU on track to meet its climate targets.

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“We, representatives of major European industries and building community, see the upcoming review of the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) as a unique opportunity for the European Union to act “big on big” issues: jobs and growth, while putting our economies on the right track to meet the Paris Agreement,” the business leaders said.

Old, inefficient buildings

Europe’s building stock is ageing and highly inefficient. It accounts for 40% of the bloc’s energy consumption and 36% of its carbon dioxide emissions.

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The average new building is at least five times more energy efficient than an old building. But 35% of the EU’s building stock is more than 50 years old and 90% will still be standing in 2050, according to the Commission.

In its contribution to the Paris Agreement, the European Union committed to reduce its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels, and to become carbon neutral by 2050. Improving the energy efficiency of Europe’s buildings is essential if the EU is to achieve this target.

The EU executive estimates that widespread energy efficiency renovation could reduce the bloc’s overall energy consumption by up to 6% and cut its CO2 emissions by 5%.

Stronger leadership needed

Under the current EPBD, all new buildings must be nearly energy neutral by the end of 2020. To achieve this, EU countries must adopt minimum energy performance standards for all new buildings, major renovations and replacement elements like roofs, heating and cooling systems and walls.

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The EED limits governments to buying only highly energy efficient buildings, and obliges them to report on national rates of building renovation.

Widely accepted figures put the EU renovation rate of buildings at just 1%. But the true figure could be even less because there is no common standards of what constitutes renovation.

Stronger leadership from the EU would spur investment in energy efficiency renovation, the letter’s signatories said. As 90% of actors in the building industries are SMEs, this would have a positive impact on the European economy, they added.

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