Building renovation: the key for energy security, growth and jobs

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

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On 23 October, EU heads of state and government will be facing a key moment in their duty to bring economic progress and social well-being to EU citizens when they attend the European Council to decide on the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework, write Pascal Eveillard and Jan te Bos.

Pascal Eveillard and Jan te Bos are respectively President and Director-General at Eurima, the European Insulation Manufactures Association.

The EU’s high energy dependence is one of the biggest challenges we are currently facing. It represents an enormous economic waste, with over €1 billion per day being spent on energy imports.

This dependence brings related possible supply shortages and represents a serious political and social risk. Yet, this problem could be effectively addressed by making a wise choice on our domestic policies: 61% of imported gas in the EU is destined for use in buildings, and this can be reduced by almost two thirds in only 15 years from now, if an ambitious policy for building energy renovation is undertaken.

On the 16th October 2014, the European Commission published the results of the so-called “stress tests” evaluating the resilience of many EU countries to possible gas supply shortages this winter.

Some of the results are alarming: According to the Commission, a prolonged supply disruption would mean that many EU member States will miss at least 60% of the gas they need. The Commission starkly concludes that: “This means that even private households could be left out in the cold”.

A planned programme of deep renovation of our building stock is the best available, most cost-effective and long-term insurance against this eventuality.

In addition, the construction sector has a clear impact in the consolidation of our economic recovery: it generates 10% of the EU’s GDP and provides 20 million jobs, mainly in SMEs. Ambitious building renovation strategies would boost local, stable employment – it is known that up to 19 jobs are created for every €1 million invested in renovation works – and put our economies back on the growth track. 

Thirdly, alleviation of fuel poverty is an increasing urgency in many EU Member States (affecting 80 million people prior to the recent economic crisis and 124 million in 2012). Coordinated and ambitious policies to cut energy waste in the residential sector are urgently needed as the only stable, long-term solution to this compelling social challenge. 

All the benefits outlined above can be reaped if Heads of State and Government as well as all other EU leaders would agree on 23rd October to adopt an ambitious, binding energy efficiency target reflecting the potential of the building sector.

Research has demonstrated that the EU has a 40% cost-effective potential for energy savings by 2030, and that the potential in the buildings sector is as high as 61% by the same date. Moreover, it is widely acknowledged that energy efficiency can play a considerable role as a facilitator for the achievement of the other two targets (GHG emission reduction and renewable energy sources). 

Stakeholders (industry, investment institutions, and ultimately building owners / occupiers) need to be encouraged by public policies to engage in robust, long-term projects that deliver substantial energy and economic savings.

The opportunity is there, it only requires political ambition to bring our economies back on track to competitive, sustainable, fair growth.

Heads of State and Government must play an active role in recognising the essential role of building renovation for reducing EU’s energy dependence, consolidating economic recovery, boosting local job creation and alleviating fuel poverty.

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