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Insulating all Europe’s residential buildings can cut energy demand for space heating by 44%

By Knauf Insulation
January 18, 2023

Improving insulation of every existing residential building in the European Union would significantly contribute to the energy security of the bloc and to achieving the EU’s 2050 net zero ambitions by cutting energy demand for space heating in buildings by 44% compared to 2020, according to a new report.

The report by the Building Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), drawn up in partnership with Knauf Insulation, showcases research modelling that reveals how up to 777 TWh in energy savings — equivalent to the electricity consumption of Germany and Spain combined — would be achieved by the full renovation of the EU’s residential buildings.

David Ducarme, Knauf Insulation’s Group Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CEO, says: “The invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated the frailty of Europe’s energy system and accelerated the need for the bold, transformational and resilient approach recommended by this report.

“By simply insulating every residential building in Europe we can reduce energy demand for space heating by 44%. This report demonstrates the golden opportunity that Europe must take now to ensure its energy independence and make a significant contribution to climate action.”

David Ducarme

Report demonstrates clear way forward

Prior to the invasion, Russia provided more than 40% of the EU’s total gas consumption, 27% of oil imports and 46% of coal imports. In addition, buildings are collectively responsible for 40% of Europe’s energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions.


Quentin Galland, Knauf Insulation’s Group Public & Regulatory Affairs Director, says:

Knauf Insulation has continuously campaigned to put energy efficiency and building renovation at the heart of every political agenda but now the imperative to act is greater than ever and this report demonstrates a clear way forward — we must rapidly scale up renovation rates to insulate all residential buildings by 2050.

“Knauf Insulation is fully supportive of the report’s conclusions to renovate all buildings as well as making the recast of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) and Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) more effective in terms of driving ‘deep renovation’ that demonstrates significant, quantifiable energy savings in buildings.”

Oliver Rapf, BPIE Executive Director, says:

“Buildings must be treated as vital infrastructure contributing to EU energy security and climate neutrality. Deep renovation should be one of the EU’s highest priorities facing the energy crisis.

“The final negotiations of the EPBD in the coming months should define deep renovation as the standard and agree renovation requirements which deliver on this standard, are fair and backed by attractive financial support for all who need it.”


Public funds must support deep renovations

Europe’s residential buildings are notoriously wasteful with the European Commission estimating that 75% of the EU’s building stock is energy inefficient with less than 1% of buildings renovated every year.

According to the report, the full renovation of residential buildings would result in one third of EU Member States saving at least 50% in final energy consumption for space heating with more than half of states achieving savings of at least 45%.

The report concludes that the revision of the EPBD should ensure that deep renovation projects are prioritised, while MEPS should focus on improving Europe’s worst-performing buildings. Public funds including emergency relief, recovery funds, and subsidy schemes, should all be designed towards supporting deep renovations of buildings, fully phasing out fossil fuels.



How was the BPIE research carried out?

The report examines the results of two renovation scenarios that were modelled by BPIE up to 2050.

One scenario focused on the impact of all residential buildings in the EU being fully renovated by 2050. The other examined a scenario where 2% of buildings — the rate prescribed by the Commission — would be renovated every year until 2050.

The modelling found that 30% of buildings would remain unrenovated by 2050 under the 2% renovation rate and 235 TWh in potential final energy savings — equal to the electricity consumption of Australia — would be wasted.

However, under the full renovation model — which assumed that by 2030 renovation rates would need to at least double to 2%, then reach 3% by 2035 and 4% by 2040 — to achieve the renovation of all residential buildings by 2050, the outcome was the energy saving potential of 777 TWh or a cut in energy demand for space heating in residential buildings of 44% (compared to 2020).