Originally published on FORESIGHT on Wednesday 27th April 2022.

The European Union wants to reduce reliance on Russian energy imports. For this to work, a pan-EU Taskforce with the sole purpose of improving energy efficiency in buildings must be established, says Adrian Joyce of Renovate Europe

Buildings renovation must be made an energy security priority

 It is high time that European citizens start reaping the rewards of a modern 21st Century sustainable energy strategy. The REPowerEU package to be published in mid-May must mark a significant shift in energy policy for the EU, away from supply-side measures and towards a more sustainable and effective demand-side process.

Such an imbalance, which has existed until now, is no longer acceptable. Europe must double down on efficiency policies and cut energy waste in buildings, currently accounting for about 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

REPowerEU offers the ideal opportunity for a change of focus—and of mindset—which would finally put energy savings policies firmly in the limelight.

 

DELIVERY TASK FORCE

An EU-led Delivery Taskforce, established between all the different directorates, as well as the Member States, with a central focus on energy efficiency, should be set up and put to work as soon as possible.

The Commission has numerous departments working on energy efficiency, but they too often suffer from a lack of coherence and prioritisation. A dedicated Taskforce with the responsibility of cutting energy waste in buildings would effectively reorganise and marshal existing programmes and resources accordingly and with purpose, so they can be bolstered and aligned with REPowerEU’s main objectives.

In terms of funding, there is already massive financial firepower in the EU Recovery fund, Cohesion Funding, LIFE programme and Horizon Europe scheme for building renovations and fighting energy poverty, but it needs to be unlocked quicker and better.

A Delivery Taskforce would be perfectly placed to manage this operation, identifying where and when money can be released to fund renovations, energy-saving equipment and skills investment. It would also ensure the money is well spent, upscaling schemes and maximising potential to achieve deep renovation.

This Taskforce could also be given the clear mandate to boost the EU’s as-yet underdeveloped public awareness campaign about consuming energy responsibly in buildings.

 

BACK IN SHAPE

In addition to the Delivery Taskforce, the EU’s landmark “Fit-for-55” package of climate measures provides the correct framework for sustainable policies. But it is now clear that there is a disconnect between its ambition and the new realities.

To better reflect the new geopolitical context and achieve the REPowerEU objectives, the standards and targets proposed in the energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings directives (EED and EPBD, respectively) should be ratcheted up.

Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are a proven way to upgrade and decarbonise the building stock. But under draft EPBD plans, the worst-performing buildings will only need to be improved by two levels of performance class and under the current timeline, they will only begin to pay off in the 2030s. This is unacceptably slow and shallow and will not be sufficient for the EU to meet its 2050 carbon neutrality goals.

The potential of MEPS must be fully tapped and now is the right time to unlock it, with unprecedented support and attention on citizens’ energy bills.

Amid a fast-moving geopolitical situation, REPowerEU absolutely has to maximise the tools and resources at the EU’s disposal to pull off two feats: securing Europe’s energy independence from Russia and sticking to its climate obligations.

Making energy efficiency an energy security priority in REPowerEU is a golden opportunity to achieve both of these objectives, sustainably.