For more than 20 years, the World Sustainable Energy Days (WSED) has gathered world experts at a conference in upper Austria to raise awareness of new measures aiding the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
With eight conferences and three side events, the WSED offer an overview of the current trends and opportunities to implement efficient and clean energy. Given the importance of building energy performance in reaching European energy targets, buildings were given a pre-eminent position during the main Energy Efficiency Conference as well as during the Young Researcher Conference.
Several presentations highlighted the current state of play, along with opportunities and recommendations to ensure highly energy efficient buildings in Europe.
European Energy Efficiency Conference: policy and markets
The European Energy Efficiency Conference was dedicated to technologies, policies and markets. The keynote session focused on the current trends of policy measures and market development.
Policy is essential to supporting the deployment of energy efficiency. Paul Hodson, European Commission, gave a presentation on the new EU energy policy: clean energy for all Europeans, saying that “it’s not a dream, energy consumption has been decoupled from economy”, and showing how the current Clean Energy package proposes measures to help local deployment of energy efficiency.
Measures include amendments to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, and supports such as smart financing and the DEEP initiatives. The European Commission’s second report on the State of the Energy Union notes that energy consumption has decreased despite GDP growth. On a global scale, Tyler Bryant summed up the International Energy Agency’s Energy Efficiency Market Report demonstrating the central role of policy in driving energy efficiency improvement, particularly mandatory policy instruments.
The EE Conference helped to further link the development of energy efficiency with better access to financing. Several European Investment Bank lending, blending and advising mechanisms enable such deployment and some examples can be found on BUILD UP such as the European Fund for Strategic Investment.
It was furthermore the opportunity to highlight how some European projects have managed to propose innovative solutions to overcome market barriers. Selected examples are listed below:
Additional exchange of good practices were presented by the Energy Efficiency Buildings Committee, summarised here.
Innovation: jobs and opportunity
However, the market uptake of retrofit and renovation rates has not reached expected levels yet, despite the potential benefits.
With 210 million buildings in Europe, a 2% energy efficiency renovation rate would support public finances, improve direct employment, boost the EU GDP by 0.7% per year and bring additional societal and health and comfort benefits, stated EURIMA, represented by its vice president Claus Bugge Garn from Rockwool International.
The European Builders Confederation (EBC) called for a “shift of paradigm to optimize the benefits of energy efficiency”. The key role of construction SMEs for the energy renovation of the European building stock was the topic EBC addressed at the Energy Efficiency Conference.
Recommendations and the way forward
Several recommendations can be made to accelerate the rate, quality and effectiveness of buildings renovation.
Prioritising energy efficiency for energy security. At a side event, BPIE presented its analysis of vulnerability to gas-supply disruptions in Central and South East Europe. By developing a Building stock Vulnerability Indicator (BVI), BPIE showed that this region is facing considerable risk in case of gas disruptions. A risk that can be countered by a sound renovation programme, applying the “energy efficiency first” principle to gas supply investments.
Upskilling the European construction sector would help to support a sector worth up to 9% of European GDP. From the experience of the BUILD UP Skills initiative, EASME has identified five areas to help develop the construction and renovation sectors.
- Transversal knowledge is needed to reach cross-craft understanding, through Building Information Modelling (BIM) and better training.
- Mutual recognition among Member States would “create a considerable demand for (…) trainings”.
- Innovative trainings would contribute in sharing good and bad practices, so that successful initiatives are replicated.
- Stimulating demand for sustainable construction workers by encouraging “those responsible for selecting contractors/workers for construction projects to choose skilled workers”.
- Improving access to finance as well as attracting innovative private financed to ensure the sustainability of projects.
Reaching the full potential of Smart Buildings : BPIE presented insights and recommendations from EU and Member State levels to support the market uptake of nearly Zero-Energy Buildings (nZEBs). There is a need for more pronounced and ambitious measures to reach the long-term EU climate and energy targets. Thankfully there are some exemplary cases that prove the market viability of nZEBs.
How ready is Europe for the “smart buildings revolution”? BPIE says that no country is fully prepared to take advantage of the benefits that smart building technologies bring. BPIE assessed aspects such as dynamic operability, energy-system responsiveness, renewable energy uptake as well as dynamic and self-learning control systems to judge how well prepared Europe is for an increased share of smart buildings. An overview of how countries scored is now available.
The next world Sustainable Energy Days will be held from February, 28th to March, 2nd 2018. Deadline to call for paper is set in October 2017.