European Commission launches the Renovation Wave

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On 14 October 2020, the European Commission launched its Communication and Strategy on the Renovation Wave initiative, intending to double Europe’s renovation rate in the next ten years and contribute to making the continent carbon neutral by 2050.

Europe’s buildings account for 40% of EU energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions, with more than 34 million Europeans at risk of energy poverty and unable to heat their homes as a result of poor energy performance. Renovation will help to combat these problems, but significant effort is needed to stimulate investment.

'With the Renovation Wave we will tackle the many barriers that today make renovation complex, expensive and time consuming, holding back much needed action,' explained Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy. 'We will propose better ways to measure renovation benefits, minimum energy performance standards, more EU funding and technical assistance, encourage green mortgages, and support more renewables in heating and cooling. This will be a game changer for home-owners, tenants and public authorities.'

The Renovation Wave, part of the European Green Deal, sets out a number of actions to be implemented between now and 2024 under eight headlines.

Strengthening information, legal certainty and incentives for renovation

The European Commission intends to revise Energy Performance Certificates, and phase in minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings, not only new builds, under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). The Building Renovation Passports proposed under the EPBD will be forthcoming to provide a roadmap for staged renovations over the lifetime of a building, even if ownership and tenancy changes.

Reinforced, accessible and more targeted funding supported by technical assistance

The Commission intends to strengthen financing for the European Investment Bank’s European Local Energy Assistance facility (ELENA) using lessons learnt from the InvestEU advisory hub, consider introducing a deep renovation standard in the EPBD, support de-risking of energy efficiency investments, incorporate environmental, social and governance risks into the Capital Requirements law and Solvency II Directive, and review the Energy and Environmental State Aid Guidelines

Creating green jobs, upskilling workers and attracting new talent

The Renovation Wave will require the quick development of new skills amongst the building industry, and the Commission intends to support Member States to update their national roadmaps for training the construction industry through the BUILD UP Initiative and European Skills Agenda, with its upcoming Pact for Skills. The Cohesion Fund, Social Fund and Just Transition Fund will fund training and re-training initiatives.

Creating a sustainable built environment

Delivering deep renovation will require a strong and competitive construction sector. As well as training, the Communication sets out an intention to strengthen the internal market for secondary raw materials with revised material recovery targets, present a unified EU framework for digital permitting, and support digitalisation in the construction sector through Horizon Europe, Digital Innovation Hubs, and Testing and Experimentation Facilities. 

Placing an integrated participatory and neighbourhood based approach at the heart of renovation

As announced in the 2020 State of the European Union address, the Commission supports the creation of a European Bauhaus Platform to bring the construction sector together with artists and designers to find creative new approaches to building challenges, and support co-operation between sectors through Horizon Europe and the R&I co-creation space. Further, energy communities and local actions will be supported via the European Smart Cities Marketplace.

Tackling energy poverty and worst-performing buildings

Alongside the Communication, the Commission also launched an Energy Poverty Recommendation to guide Member States in defining and implementing strategies to reduce energy poverty. In 2021, the Affordable Housing Initiative will be launched for renovation of 100 lighthouse districts across the EU and provide blueprints for replication. To tackle energy poverty in rural areas, a Communication on the long-term vision for rural areas will also be launched next year.

Public buildings and social infrastructure showing the way 

Under the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), 'central governments' are required to renovate 3% of the total floor area of heated or cooled public buildings every year. The Commission proposes to amend this to ensure that the provisions apply to all levels of public administration and also increase the obligation. In the longer run, new criteria will be developed for green public procurement for public buildings related to life-cycle and climate resilience, based on Level(s), the European framework for sustainable buildings.

Decarbonising heating and cooling

Heating and cooling account for 80% of household energy use and more than 70% for industrial buildings. To tackle this, the Commission will revise the EED and the Renewable Energy Directive to increase the renewable heating and cooling target and introduce a requirement for a minimum of renewable energy in buildings. Eco-design and energy labelling measures will be further developed and emissions trading for buildings will also be explored. 

More information can be found in the Communication, 'A Renovation Wave for Europe', its annexed timeline of key actions, and the European Commission webpage.

Image credit: Photo by JESHOOTS.com from Pexels
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