Renovation Wave: the passport towards smart, energy efficient and carbon-neutral buildings

News Article

The spotlight has been shining bright on the Renovation Wave, since the EU Commission announced it among the flagship initiatives meant to reignite Europe’s economy. Poised to create local business opportunities and green jobs, it also represents a unique opportunity to cut the CO2 emissions and improve the comfort of living and the energy system efficiency.

Europe's buildings consume 40% of all the energy used across the continent. With three-quarters of the EU’s building stock being energy inefficient, the need for space heating and cooling is higher, and the bills paid by consumers are heftier. What’s more, by heavily relying on fossil fuels for heating our homes and water or for cooking, this sector is responsible for over one-third of the overall CO2 emissions.

Eurelectric’s position paper published today highlights the benefits of electrification and makes recommendations on unlocking the decarbonisation potential through the Renovation Wave.

Smarter, energy efficient buildings, enable CO2 cuts, cost savings and customers’ active involvement in the energy system

The electrification of heating and cooling in buildings is key to cut the EU’s CO2 emissions, while at the same time reducing air pollution and improving living standards. Electric heat pumps offer a solid solution. They are five-to-six times more energy efficient than conventional fossil-fuelled boilers and already have a significantly lower CO2 intensity.

On top, this market-ready solution comes with lower running and maintenance costs. And their benefits are even higher, when accompanied by solar panels, batteries and integrated energy management systems, in well insulated buildings.

Going one step further, the deployment of electric technologies could lead to a smarter building stock. By enabling flexibility and demand-response features, they empower customers to dynamically interact with the electricity system, and actively manage their use.

Key policy developments to keep in mind.

  • First, the Renovation Wave should seek to set a common path for all EU Member States, despite their different starting points in the energy transition and heat markets.
  • Second, the current taxation should be addressed to reduce the discrepancies between electricity and fossil fuels.
  • Third, designing specific funding programmes to increase the energy efficiency of low-income households will be key to offset the negative impacts of climate policies.

Infrastructure that drives the electrification of transport

Over 40 million electric vehicles will be driving on Europe’s roads by the end of this decade. When thinking that 90% of their charging takes places at home, or at the workplace, it is critical to accelerate the deployment of smart-charging infrastructure in residential and commercial estates.

The Renovation Wave is an opportunity to extend the requirements for smart charging points to existing buildings, filling thus the gaps left behind by the Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings which foresees basic chargers for new-builds only. Under this initiative, the renovated buildings should be equipped with the necessary infrastructure that accommodates the re-charging needs, and optimises the use of the grid.  

What’s more, digitalisation is key. Through the roll-out of smart meters and smart charging-points, buildings and their inhabitants, EVs and their users, as well as grids would enhance their interaction levels. This smart communication would enable the use of electricity in a cost-efficient manner, leading even to financial benefits for consumers, who will be able to sell the electricity back to grid, when it is needed.

Several projects are there and ready to link the Green Deal with the EU recovery, helping both the construction and automotive sectors.  

The Renovation Wave will not happen without the right skills

The construction sector already faces huge shortages in manpower, as well as in skilled workforce that installs on-site renewables, smart systems and innovative digital solutions, which are necessary for a future-proof building stock. However, they play an essential role in advising customers and providing information on the most energy efficient solutions at hand.

This is the right time to address the lack of supplier training and provide an impetus for apprenticeships, up-skilling and reskilling for green works in the construction field.

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