REC Newsletter - December 2021

Welcome to the Renovate Europe Campaign’s newsletter which looks back on a quite busy year!

Highlights include the publication of the Renovate2Recover Study, which was undertaken by E3G with input from the Campaign’s National Partners. In addition, we celebrated this year the 10th anniversary of the Campaign during a social event together with friends and colleagues and organised on the same day the Renovate Europe Day 2021. REDay2021 was supported by 4 National Partner Events and one EU Supporting Partner Event. We have also issued a letter to the EU Energy Ministers as a response to the energy prices rises and been active advocating through our opeds (we published 6 this year!). Finally, we are delighted to welcome 5 new Partners!

Thank you to our 49 Partners and the buildings community at large for all the achievements this year, and we wish you a happy and peaceful holiday break!

Read the full Newsletter here.


Better data needed to manage our buildings

Originally published on EURACTIV on Monday 6th December 2021.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) have immense, as-yet untapped potential to help Europe decarbonise. But the methodology that underpins them must be revamped first, argues Adrian Joyce, who is calling for reform as part of the upcoming revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).

Adrian Joyce is the director of the Renovate Europe Campaign.

The European Green Deal has achievable, necessary goals that aim to curb greenhouse gases, boost the number of green jobs and preserve economic growth. But some of the Green Deal’s benchmarks and – admittedly admirable – policies rely on assumptions and datasets that are too often based on diverse and sometimes divergent methodologies.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) fall into this category.  EPCs can be instrumental in gathering the accurate, up-to-date numbers and metrics so desperately needed for the decarbonisation of our buildings.

With more and better data, public authorities will be better placed to track their progress on set targets, plan future renovation strategies based on identified gaps, and develop the needed social support schemes for those in need.

Homeowners and businesses will also be rewarded with a clearer picture of what needs to be done to future-proof their building to climate-neutral standards.

But for this to happen, the EPC framework must be seriously updated and improved with the EPBD review at the end of this year.

United in diversity

Conceived initially as a market instrument to influence building owners and occupiers’ purchase and leasing decisions, these colourful documents can do so much more if they are designed correctly and include the right set of data.

The current EPC framework, set up to give maximum flexibility to the Member States, has resulted in a huge diversity of national methodologies, how the gathered information is presented, and the cost to building owners across the 27 Member States.

The revision of the EPBD is the opportunity to get the EPC methodology right. The European Commission must ensure a better convergence of national methods, otherwise, the patchwork of energy performance we currently see will only worsen.

This will significantly boost the role and potential of EPCs not only as an information tool for building occupiers but also as an instrument to link preferential financing conditions to quality renovations.

Better, more reliable data will help bring the financial sector on board. A higher energy grade equates to lower energy bills and, as a result, a better risk rating. Banks should be encouraged to require EPCs during mortgage applications, a practice that already happens but which could be deployed by more lenders.

Real data for our buildings

Instead of relying on assessments that often use outdated data, certificates should always be produced via on-site visits. Issuing an EPC by drawing on real-world performance data and behaviours is the only way accurate recommendations for future energy-saving gains can be produced.

Technological advances also mean installing sensors in buildings to feed readings back to central databases. This improves the quality of the data used, it builds trust among building owners that certificates accurately reflect renovation works carried out.

Finally, each EPC must present a full renovation pathway for each building to achieve its full energy performance potential by 2050. Linking each EPC to the more complete Building Renovation Passport and Digital Building Logbooks will help in that respect.

Well-designed EPCs, nestled in a robust regulatory framework, can unlock our buildings’ untapped potential and support our way to a climate-neutral future.

Aiming for an EPC for every building by 2030 and mandating it after every energy renovation can help us reach this goal.

EPCs are a powerful tool, the potential of which is currently underused and undervalued. This must change. Now is the chance to set the EPC right in the upcoming EPBD proposal. It is a prerequisite if the EU is to meet its 2050 goals.


A piecemeal approach on energy standards for buildings won’t work

Originally published on EURACTIV on Thursday 25th November 2021.

Decarbonising Europe’s building stock requires robust Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), not a piecemeal approach that fails to regulate buildings that are ripe for renovation projects, writes Adrian Joyce.

Adrian Joyce is director of the Renovate Europe Campaign.

The European Union has an immense superpower that its officials sometimes forget to use: industries, sectors, and stakeholders more often than not respond effectively to the issued regulations, rules, and directives.

Regulation, and the clarity that comes with it, are often craved, especially by stakeholders that appreciate asset value. And building owners rank highly within that category, given that buildings are the world’s most valuable asset class.

Regulation has proven successful in driving significant changes in the buildings sector in the last decades. But there is still plenty of potential yet to tap in Europe’s leaky buildings, and the climate emergency has brought this sharply into focus.

As the EU aims to curb the carbon footprint of the building stock in the EU, which is responsible for nearly 40% of the bloc’s emissions, the sector’s willingness to be regulated cannot be underestimated and should be fully leveraged.

Minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) are one of the key instruments that must be deployed if the EU’s ambitious Renovation Wave initiative and overall emission reduction targets are to be met.

MEPS are segment-based rules that set a future to achieve a given performance level and are the most effective means of making measurable progress. They bring market predictability and can help the labour market adapt to demand.

Suppose the industry knows that, for example, shopping centres need to reach a certain level by a specific date. In that case, preparations can be made to train enough workers and provide whatever certification is needed to carry out the works on time.

It is logic that is already working in practice. For example, in the Netherlands, social housing is expected to reach EPC levels B by 2021 and office buildings EPC must reach levels C by 2023. Both are on track to be met, with the bonus of banks having reacted positively and adapted their lending strategies accordingly to encourage even higher energy savings. There is no reason this success cannot be replicated across the EU.

Building segments ripe for action

But there are indications that the upcoming revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), due in December, will not exploit the full potential of MEPS and will only mandate their use for the worst-performing buildings.

Whilst tackling the ‘worst-performing buildings’ will achieve significant energy savings and will also help to reach the vulnerable consumers suffering from energy poverty, mandating MEPS only for this building segment would be an enormous missed opportunity.

This would squander the potential for substantial energy savings from buildings in other segments that would be highly receptive to regulation, such as office blocks. The Renovation Wave, in particular, can ill-afford to miss out on such low-hanging fruit.

It is essential that all building types in every segment of the sector be covered by these standards well ahead of the 2050 deadline. Policy-makers need to hit the ground running and make sure MEPS coverage is as comprehensive as possible to provide certainty on achieving the stated 2030 and 2050 goals outlined in the Long-Term Renovation Strategies.

Only scratching the surface

Public and private money is starting to pour into building refurbishments, but risks being wasted if works do not achieve at least 60% energy savings. It makes no sense to boost the number of buildings refurbished every year if those works are not up to scratch.

MEPS, together with Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and robust monitoring, will help regulate deep renovations of existing buildings.

Financial and technical support measures for owners and occupiers in the MEPS framework can also help to maximise their impact and ensure they are affordable for all. Further, banks implementing a Mortgage Portfolio Standard would naturally be keen to support the maximum upgrades of low performing homes in their portfolios.

The scale of the task ahead is admittedly daunting. But policy-makers already have the tools needed to make a success of it; they just have to provide the proper framework and the correct standards. The EPBD review should be an easy win for the Commission.


No more time for half-measures on renovation

Originally published on EURACTIV on Wednesday 10th November 2021.

In times of climate crisis, it is no longer acceptable that our buildings swallow up so much of the limited energy resources and leave our citizens so vulnerable to energy price hikes, writes Adrian Joyce.

Adrian Joyce is director of the Renovate Europe Campaign.

Building renovations can slash greenhouse gas emissions and massively improve human health. But if renovations are cosmetic fixes only, we risk undermining climate policies at a time when we really cannot afford to.

A ‘deep renovation’ standard in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is a crucial stepping-stone towards more highly energy efficient renovations.

The scale of the challenge is huge: more than 97% of the building stock in the EU hold a below-A grading. As a result, a high of 40% of the EU’s energy supply is soaked up by buildings, and about 36% of CO2 emissions are released from our leaky building stock. Those figures have to come down, and fast.

Renovations are the way to do that, by upgrading homes, offices, and other buildings so that less energy is used and not wasted.

In a time of high energy prices and restricted economic abundance post-COVID, channelling investments towards energy renovation is the right thing to do. We know that technologies available today can bring down energy demand by 80% in existing buildings, thereby relieving the pressure on consumer energy bills.

But on energy renovation we cannot afford half measures.

Energy renovation rates are barely reaching 1% per year. Boosting this number is a key priority to keep the EU on track for its climate neutrality objective. But there will be little benefit to climate policies if the renovation rate goes up without unlocking massive energy savings in the process.

Many people, especially homeowners, will see renovation works as a one-time deal, not to be repeated. Renovations are often a resource-intensive undertaking, both in terms of financing and time. It must either be fit-for-purpose on day 1, or be designed to be fit-for-purpose with a coherent plan for the longer-term (known as staged renovation).

If a family or business-owner opts for renovation works covering only one aspect of the building with no plan for the rest, then this will lock in energy savings and end up costing them more down the line when they seek to renovate again to capture the full energy savings potential. Integrating such measures into a coherent roadmap with a clear path to A-grading from the start is essential.

EU push towards renovations

The success of the EU’s much needed ‘Renovation Wave’ will be measured not only by the quantity but also by the quality of the renovations – because we need to ensure that the building upgrades that do happen are not just cosmetic fixes. They must do the job.

The European Commission considers renovations that yield 60% savings to be ‘deep renovations’, and deep is definitely what we need if we want the building stock to contribute its fair share in demand reduction and lowered CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately, despite the climate crisis and rising energy prices, many renovations undertaken are far from reaching the 60% mark, let alone the 80% energy savings which is technologically feasible in most buildings.

Analysis of the National Recovery and Resilience Plans shows that most of the renovation investments planned under the Recovery Fund will deliver only 30% energy savings, the bare minimum stipulated in the Commission Guidelines. Member states have the opportunity to course-correct and increase the energy savings during the implementation, so as to ensure such an unprecedented injection of public funds falls in line with the EU climate-neutrality objectives.

Another incitement to renovation is the Sustainable Finance Taxonomy, the playbook that is meant to guide green investments in the years to come. Here again, we find a threshold of just 30% for energy renovations to be considered ‘sustainable’.

This gap in criteria and the lack of a common ‘deep renovation’ standard is problematic. Spending cash on renovation schemes that only offer 30% savings not only locks in assets but also jeopardises our climate policy ambitions.

Enter the EPBD

All is not lost. The Commission has pledged to develop a ‘deep renovation’ standard that can be bolted onto the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which will be updated later this year.

The review of the EPBD should also update the criteria for nearly zero-energy buildings (nZEB), which will make the gold standard of energy performance clearer and more coherent with the EU’s updated climate goals.

The ‘deep renovation’ standard will be difficult to get right, there is no doubt about that. It is easy to get 60%+ energy savings from a building that leaks heat and soaks up too much power, but this may only leave the building in the middle of the way towards climate neutrality proofing.

It is less easy to get the same gains from a building that is already efficient but could do better. That is why the standard has to account for different starting points to set all facilities on the road to climate-neutral compatible performance levels. The Commission should consider criteria that ask for savings worth at least 60% or renovations that bring energy demand down to 80kWh/m²/year. Whichever option yields the most climate-friendly building at the end of the day should be prioritised.

The standard should also consider the health impacts of renovation works by requiring the delivery of a high indoor environmental quality in conjunction with dramatically improved energy performance. It must also consider staged deep renovation described in comprehensive, tailored building renovation passports that support the coordination of the works, for when it is impossible to carry all the works at once.

In times of climate crisis, it is no longer acceptable that our buildings swallow up so much of the limited energy resources and leave our citizens vulnerable to energy price hikes. Buildings that require less energy, whilst delivering quality, health-enhancing buildings, must be the aim of the game.

All eyes will be on the ‘deep renovation’ standard in the EPBD – we cannot afford any half-measures anymore.


Open Letter to EU Energy Ministers on 'Energy Price Rises: Renovate Buildings to Protect Consumers'

Open Letter to Energy Ministers of the EU Member States

Subject:                 Energy Price Rises: Renovate Buildings to Protect Consumers

Dear Minister,

In the context of your meeting on the 26th of October, you will be debating the “toolbox” of measures tabled by the European Commission to address the rising energy prices.  We call on you to prioritise building energy renovation to protect consumers.

The increased price per unit puts the spotlight once again on our vulnerability to high rates, and costs, of energy imports.  In 2015, the EU imported 53% of its energy needs and we highlighted at the time (see our video here) that this was costing the EU around €400 billion per year.  The situation has since degraded as the EU imported nearly 61% of its energy needs in 2019[1].  This dependence on imports must end or unpredictable price rises will occur again and again.

Buildings in the EU account for the largest share of final energy consumption, at a high of 40% of energy demand.  This is largely due to the poor energy performance of the building stock, with more than 97% below the A-level grading[2].

The truly sustainable answer to tackle rising energy prices and protect consumers is to cut our energy demand through deep energy renovation. Thanks to technologies readily available, it is possible to reduce the energy demand of the building stock in the EU by 80%, thus drastically reducing the amount of energy needed in each building (homes, offices, hospitals, public buildings etc.) to create comfortable and healthy indoor environments, and leading to a 30% reduction in total energy use in the EU.

Direct financial support to vulnerable households is only a stopgap solution.  The Commission acknowledged in its communication that Member States should “step up investments on energy efficiency and in buildings performance, which lowers energy consumption and energy costs and eases pressure on energy markets” as a medium-term measure to tackle energy prices.

More specifically, we call on you to take action to accelerate building energy renovation in two respects:

  • Front-loading and prioritising the investments and reforms related to building renovation in the National Recovery Plans (see Study), in order to set a path that will benefit all, and in particular vulnerable consumers;
  • Securing ambitious buildings elements in the Fit-for-55 package and in particular Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) as an indispensable driver to create visibility and future-proof our buildings.

A transformation of the building stock in the EU is urgently needed to achieve climate neutrality and protect consumers against variation in unit prices, thereby making comfortable, healthy indoor environments an affordable option for all.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Joyce
Campaign Director

 

[1] See Eurostat article here
[2] See BPIE publication here.


Europe fails to act on energy waste in Recovery and Resilience Plans

Press Release on Study Launch:
Renovate2Recover: How Transformational are the National Recovery Plans for Buildings Renovation?


A major Study by E3G for the Renovate Europe Campaign (REC) analysed the share devoted to energy renovation of the building stock in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans (NRRPs), showing that ambition remains low and that Member States lack foresight for planning beyond 2026. In a moment when increasing energy efficiency is made more urgent than ever because of skyrocketing energy prices, the Plans represent a huge, missed opportunity to significantly lower energy demand.

On its 10th Anniversary, Renovate Europe launched Renovate2Recover, a study undertaken by E3G with input from the Campaign’s National Partners, that shows that the massive funding being made available under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is not being used to its full potential. The study sets out 9 recommendations that would allow Member States to implement transformative Plans and meet the Renovation Wave objectives.

With a view to boosting the green transition, Member States were mandated to spend at least 37% of the RRF on climate-related action, with energy renovation encouraged as a flagship component. Among the 18 Member States assessed, the Study found that an average of only 8% is allocated to energy renovation, achieving in most cases only a 30% energy savings, the bare minimum required by the RRF guidelines.

“This unprecedented additional injection of public funds is a golden opportunity to set the EU building stock firmly on the path to achieving its Renovation Wave goals to 2030 and meeting the 2050 climate targets”, said Adrian Joyce, Campaign Director. “But these renovations must be done properly, and the money must be spent well. And for this, we need deep (or staged deep) renovations, going well beyond 30% energy saving”.

In addition to raising the level of expected energy savings, the Study also emphasises the need to invest in the enabling framework to create sustainable renovation markets.

“In the delivery phase, the planned investments must be linked to reforms so that it creates a fertile ground for the renovation market to grow and ‘deepen’ beyond 2026” commented Vilislava Ivanova, the lead researcher at E3G for the Study. “Otherwise, the NRRP investment efforts risk ‘falling off a cliff’ after 2026. Attracting private finance should be prioritised, alongside efforts to build delivery capacity and create synergies with other EU and national funding sources.”

Unfortunately, Member States displayed limited foresight to set up an enabling infrastructure that can coordinate the renovation sector beyond the implementation of the individual measures in the NRRPs.

The Study also highlights the importance of an ambitious regulatory framework at EU-level to complement and drive action from the NRRPs on the ground. The outcome of the Fit-for-55 legislative proposals, all of which would enter into force while NRRP funding is being invested, will be crucial in this respect. For example, the introduction of mandatory Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) under the EPBD would send a strong signal to the whole renovation value chain, from institutional investors to building users.

The Study covers 18 of the 27 Member States and finds that the total amount they plan to invest in energy renovation is €39.9bn, or 8.4% of the total funding allocation. This percentage varies from a low of just over 3% in Austria to a high of over 16% in Belgium. Looking at the numbers in per capita terms, we see that there is huge variation across the EU with Greece planning to spend €384 per capita on energy renovation and Austria planning to spend just €11 per capita. Proposed investments in energy renovation are concentrated in the residential sector, which receives over €23bn (58%) of funding, with the public sector buildings appearing as the second largest target for investment with close to €13bn (34%).

“Although in their current form, the NRRPS will not be transformational for building renovation, there is still room for Member States to course-correct during the implementation phase”, added Caroline Simpson, Renovate Europe Campaign Manager. “This Study should be seen as a starting point for Member States to put their building stock on the right path to 2030 and 2050, by raising the depth of renovation and planning ahead to create a sustainable renovation ecosystem for the benefit of citizens, businesses and the environment beyond 2026.”

The National Partners of the Renovate Europe Campaign will be vigilant in monitoring the efforts of the Member States and will be involved in reacting to the successive assessments and recommendations that the European Commission will issue on the NRRPs over the period to 2026.

The full Study and all 18 individual Country Profiles can be downloaded here.

ENDS

For more information on the content of the Study, contact:

  • Caroline Simpson – caroline.simpson@euroace.org
  • Vilislava Ivanova – vilislava.ivanova@e3g.org