Glass is irreplaceable in buildings, making it a key part of the solution to unlock energy savings and help reach Europe’s decarbonisation targets. But it’s also an energy-intensive industry, for which no immediate clean energy alternative is available.
As a high-level group of CEOs, academics and politicians gathered in Brussels last week to discuss the future of the glass industry, they recognised how glass is a material which is used everywhere, from smartphones to cars, from ovens to buildings. The reason glass is everywhere is because as a transparent material, it serves a unique function for which mankind has found no substitute. This could make the sector a low-hanging fruit in lowering Europe’s emissions.
They debated how flat glass industry would respond and contribute to the European Green Deal and the decarbonisation targets. The industry sees an immediate opportunity in its use phase. Glass is an endlessly recyclable material, and right now most of that material lies locked in inefficient uses in buildings. 80% of glass goes to the buildings sector, and 85% of the glass in that sector is still inefficient, using either single glazing or inefficient double glazing. The industry is calling on the EU to enforce energy efficiency legislation that would require these windows to be replaced.
It is in the glass industry´s interest to have EU forcing the implementation of the renovation strategy in order to have the availability of more glass stock coming from recycled windows, and more demand of this product. But the industry says without this increase in demand, they cannot make the investment needed to reduce emissions from their production processes. Despite building renovation and energy efficiency having been made EU policy priorities, glass demand is still below what it would take to make the needed investments. The use of recycled glass, called “cullet”, can help tackle the raw material emissions. It also requires less energy to melt. Today it accounts for about a quarter of what goes into European flat glass furnaces. Advances in chemistry could also help reduce these material emissions. However gas fuel for the production of glass is still used and it is harder to replace as full-electric melting technology is not yet available.
Therefore, the industry is eagerly waiting the Commission´s new industrial policy strategy expected for March, and are hoping for an ambitious plan for building refurbishment.
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