A housing renovation programme, aimed at reducing energy consumption of buildings, will be “one of the flagships” of the upcoming European Green Deal that will be unveiled by the European Commission next month, an EU official has said.
“From our perspective it’s clear that if we want to go to a decarbonised economy by 2050, the heating sector will have to make a very important contribution,” said Robert Nuij, an official in the European Commission’s energy directorate. “One of the flagships of the new Commission will be an action on building renovation”.
Buildings – including household boilers and heaters – are responsible for 40% of the EU’s total energy consumption, making them one of the biggest contributors to global warming emissions in Europe. “What is clear is that the focus will have to be on increasing renovation rates of buildings and increasing the changeover of old heating technologies towards new decarbonised heating technologies,” Nuij said.
Funding from the European Investment Bank (EIB), which recently overhauled its energy lending policy, could also be mobilised “to ensure residents don’t have to find tens of thousands of euros upfront – which they simply don’t have,” Timmermans suggested.
“With initiatives like this, the Green Deal could mean lower energy bills for better and more comfortable houses. Everybody wins,” the Dutchman said.
Cost is the biggest factor for most consumers in choosing a new heating system, according to an opinion poll by Savanta ComRes, published on Thursday (21 November). Cost of monthly bills usually comes on top, followed by the cost of installation, according to the survey, which spanned 13 EU countries.
That said, consumers are also driven by environmental considerations, especially in countries like France, Italy and Germany. Asked about their willingness to switch to greener heating systems, 82% mentioned solar power as their preferred alternative, followed by natural gas (59%) and geothermal power (58%).
According to Monique Goyens, director general of EU consumer organisation BEUC, “energy poverty is at the centre of this debate”.
“The energy transition has to be people-centred,” agreed Federica Sabbati, from the European Heating Industry (EHI), a trade group bringing together manufacturers of heating systems running on solar, gas and biomass. “The first big step that is still not being made” towards climate-neutrality is “the modernisation of buildings,” Sabbati said. “And I think here we need to talk about the decarbonisation of buildings and not just heating,” she pointed out, underlining that the energy performance of buildings also depends on things like insulation and the type of energy infrastructure.
“From a policy perspective, what is very important for us is to set clear long-term targets that give certainty to the markets about where we should be moving. And then create the framework conditions for consumers to make the right choices,” Nuij said. Standards will also play a part. “We are revising our measures for eco-design for space and water heaters,” Nuij said.
But EU governments will have a central role to play, with national building renovation strategies due next year that will set national targets for 2030, 2040 and 2050 to decarbonise the building stock.
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