Data shortfall clouds EU buildings efficiency assessment

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Financial support for energy saving measures in buildings across the EU varies widely, but a full picture is clouded by a lack of accurate data compiled by member states, according to two new reports.

A long-awaited European Commission paper on financial support for energy efficiency measures in buildings, published on 18 April, found that investments in the area were increasing.

But “there is only limited information on the effectiveness of the different financial support measures, both at EU and national levels,” the paper noted. “Few member states have provided details of the effectiveness of national support measures, making it difficult to obtain a good overview of their impact.”

That message was reinforced by a separate report published on 24 April which found, in a partial review of measures undertaken, that annual national spending by EU countries on energy efficiency measures varied from €4 to €40 per person, per capita.

Striking as the figures are, the consultants report, commissioned by the French Environment and Energy Academy (ADEME), did not include obligation schemes or white certificates and its results cannot yet be considered conclusive.

Data shortfall

One of the report's authors, Steffan Scheuer, told EURACTIV that he hoped it would trigger larger-scale studies that could enable a more thorough database to be compiled.

“The biggest problem is data availability and lack of harmonised assessment methods for a robust and complete picture,” he said. “This could strengthen the case for increasing public budgets dedicated to energy efficiency as a responsible use of scarce public resources.”

“Private financing does and will always dominate but without increasing public support there will be no level playing field for energy efficiency as Europe's biggest energy resource,” he added.

Although energy efficiency budgets for buildings are growing – and leveraging significant private sector funds – they are still much smaller than other energy-related subsidies, Scheuer’s report says. 

According to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures, in 2011, Germany alone provided total support for fossil fuels equal to €62 per person, per capita.

Important barriers

As well as a lack of harmonised data, other “important barriers” to the uptake of energy efficient investments noted by the Commission include:

  • A lack of awareness of – and expertise in – energy saving financing for buildings among stakeholders
  • High initial costs
  • Relatively long pay-back periods
  • A corresponding perceived credit risk   
  • Competing priorities for final beneficiaries

“If the EU is to meet its 2020 energy efficiency target and its ambitions for further savings towards 2050, it is imperative to improve the financial support for energy efficiency in buildings,” the paper says.

It called for a proper implementation of the regulatory framework, more financing to be brought online and the addressing of key barriers.

An analysis of 25 financial support schemes in the paper found that the most successful were based on preferential loans, often complimented by a grant or technical assistance package.

Crucially, homeowners need to be convinced of the benefits of upgrading their properties, the report said.

The paper was intended to analyse the effectiveness of two pieces of EU legislation: The recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which mandates ‘nearly-zero energy’ buildings by 2021, and the Energy Efficiency Directive, which obliges EU states to establish long-term strategies for renovating their building stock by April 2014. 

Background

EU nations have signed up to a voluntary objective of reducing the EU's primary energy use by 20% by 2020, measured against 2005 levels. Such savings would slash the EU’s CO2 emissions by an estimated 780 million tonnes and save €100 billion in fuel costs.

One of the EU's main policy tools to achieve this objective is the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which was initially supposed to reduce the EU's energy consumption by up to 6%.

>> Read our LinksDossier: Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

The directive was recast in 2010 to cover residential and non-residential constructions. It provided a common methodology for calculating the energy performance of buildings and covered five main categories of end-uses: heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, and hot water.

All new structures in the EU were required to be nearly zero-energy buildings by 2021, with a 2019 target for the public sector.

Timeline

  • 30 April: Member states present their national programmes for the implementation of the Energy Efficiency Directive.
  • 2014: EU pledged to review progress towards energy efficiency 2020 targets and consider binding measures if it is too slow.
  • 9 July 2015: Deadline for threshold raising energy performance requirement on public buildings to 250m2.
  • 2016: European Commission to review the Energy Efficiency Directive.
  • 1 Jan. 2019: Deadline for all new public buildings to become near-zero CO2 emitters
  • 2020: Deadline for EU states to meet voluntary obligation to reduce energy output by 20%, measured against 2005 levels.
  • 1 Jan. 2021: Deadline for all new buildings to become near-zero carbon emitters

Further Reading

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