The BPIE report highlighted the complexity of the sector in large part because Member States had over decades separately developed their buildings sectors in terms of policies, design and construction techniques. The report showed a mosaic of building cultures and policies.

Policy-making cannot be undertaken effectively in a knowledge vacuum. With buildings representing about 40% of energy consumption and almost the same level of GHG emissions, there is a need for a strong analytical foundation for policy-making, particularly when there are priority policy concerns such as energy security and global climate change. Data and information are essential and the “Microscope” study started that data journey. The 2011 publication presented a fraction of the information and data collected. The database is now being used as an information pool to deepen the discussion in several key areas.

The 2011 report highlighted many of the market barriers that will impede such levels of energy performance improvements. The major set of barriers concerns the financing of such improvements. While the investments are considered cost-effective over the lifetime of the building, there are undoubtedly high up-front expenditures. The 2011 report gave some attention to the financial instruments available in Europe but, understandably, the review was only a first step.

This report takes a closer look at how financial instruments are currently being used in Europe and provides some evidence on their effectiveness. The focus is mainly on existing buildings, because these types of buildings represents the biggest potential for reducing GHG emission. New buildings only add about 1% per year to the total building stock. If buildings are to contribute their rightful share to the reduction of GHG emissions and energy savings by 2020 and 2050, the level of ambition must be high but must also be realistic, based on a strong analytical foundation. It is estimated that, on average, buildings can achieve 75-80% improvements in energy performance. What was once considered prohibitive is now widely accepted.