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Energy surge
By itradmin on April 05, 2011

Tony robson knauf

Europe's energy policy needs a deep renovation and buildings are the place to start - writes Tony Robson

Tony robson knauf

Europe's energy policy needs a deep renovation and buildings are the place to start - writes Tony Robson

One month ago the European commission published its energy efficiency plan. One Month ago the world was a very different place. The recommendations were set against the backdrop of a world where threats on energy security were a mere possibility, not sitting on Europe's doorstep. They were set before the colossal earthquake stuck Japan and before the ensuing Fukushima nuclear disaster exposed quite clearly our continued global dependence on fossil fuels.

At the time of the adoption of the plan, like many in the energy efficiency industry, I was disappointed. Looking back on the events of the last weeks, a time when every European citizen has understood the gravity of our energy crisis, my disappointment with the energy efficiency plan has been replaced with concern. We now have an irrefutable case to urgently reduce our energy use and, in light of the developments in the last month, it makes no sense to wait until 2013 to make further assessment on whether Europe needs more ambitious measures.

So, what can Europe do? For a start they must begin the deep energy renovation of the European building stock. A deep energy efficiency renovation of Europe's existing buildings could technically lead to a five-fold decrease in CO2 emissions from the building stock and serious financial savings for Europeans, in the order of €500bn a year. A striking figure considering that almost all new legislation for buildings focuses on new buildings and does not consider how to ensure that the entire existing building stock is renovated.

The commission needs to work with the entire building chain to better understand Europe's buildings, identify technical barriers and propose multi-tier national renovation roadmaps across Europe. We need to engage with the financing community and find ways to make sure financing can be delivered to actual projects. A good example of this is the European Elena fund, which supports local authorities by providing grant financing. Currently the Elena fund is providing €125 of private finance for every €1 of grant support. Based on this, if the EU could leverage €100m of grant support annually it could deliver €12.5bn of private finance every year for deep renovation.

This is a key year for demonstrating that the EU is serious about reaching its long-terms targets. The energy roadmap due in the autumn must propose a binding target of 80 per cent reduction of energy use in the EU building stock by 2050, tracking back to the present to determine the necessary actions to be started immediately, with realistic but ambitious scenarios. This combined with a deep renovation fund would create both political direction and financial means to put us back on track.

The framework directive or directives on energy efficiency must be clear with regards to the tools to be used. These could include energy savings obligations, energy performance contracts and certificates that promote the uptake of ambitious projects for deep renovation of buildings. Member states must implement these policies and measure by establishing detailed and coherent national roadmaps for refurbishing their buildings stock to nearly zero energy levels in the 40 years to come.

Will this all be easy? Perhaps not, nothing worth doing ever is. Is it achievable? Absolutely, if we have the political resolve and business support. The EU has an obligation to transform its current timid intentions into specific, bold action, with ambitious long-term goals and clear pathway to achieve them. Buildings are the place to start.

 

Zero delivers zero

Europe currently builds at a rate of one per cent a year; it deconstructs at a rate of around 0.1 per cent a year. This means that even if all new building are built at near zero energy level, this alone will deliver almost zero absolute reductions in energy use from the built environment. Such standards are needed but deep energy efficiency renovation is also essential.

4 April 2011 PARLIAMENTMAGAZINE