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Glass industry boss: Replacing old windows can bring huge energy savings

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If Europe goes climate neutral, it will consume more flat glass, predicts Christian Quenett. And the benefits could be huge: simply doubling the replacement rate of windows, in line with the European Green Deal, would achieve 20% of the EU’s energy efficiency targets for 2030, he says.

Christian Quenett is a physicist with a PhD in mechanical engineering. He has worked in the glass industry for 25 years, now at Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG Group). Since spring 2018, he is also the chairman of the board of directors of Glass Europe, the trade association for Europe’s flat glass sector.

This interview addresses the near future of the European flat glass industry under the building renovation wave. The flat glass industry is expected to grow significantly in the next years in order to respond to the European Green Deal´s targets.

 

As Christian Quennett highlights, the solar industry in Europe has slowed down, whereas it is booming in China and the US. Therefore, Europe´s biggest opportunity is in the building sector and its renovation process. He says that  "about 37% of the CO2 emissions of buildings could be saved by 2050, by using high-performance glazing in all buildings. And, and in the medium term, just by doubling the replacement rate of windows in Europe – in line with the Green Deal – we would achieve around 20% of the EU’s 2030 energy efficiency targets. We could actually save 240 million tons of CO2 over 10 years just by doing this". This would mean a significant growth in flat glass demand coupled with decarbonisation and renovation of buildings. Moreover, he stresses how flat glass is a strategic material, particularly if Europe goes carbon neutral. In fact, it will consume more high tech flat glass products which have distinctive properties, such as transparency and full recyclability, so that it they cannot be substituted by other materials.

 

When asked whether the flat glass market could bring CO2 emissions down to zero to respond to Europe´s carbon neutrality, Christian Quennett replies that "25% of the emissions in the flat glass melting process are emissions resulting from the carbonate released by raw materials as they melt. So, these cannot be brought down to zero by switching to renewable energy sources. The maximum potential reduction linked to energy switch would be minus 75%. Going beyond that requires looking into other options", such as renewable electricity, hydrogen, and biogas. Moreover, all these options require heavy investments, including R&D, and other competitors in the market (e.g. Russia, Turkey, Belarus and North Africa) who do not have the same CO2 emissions constraints may take advantage in the market share. He adds that a clear solution is hard to find at the moment and it may not happen in the near future, such as establishing a carbon border tax. "It would be desirable to find a way to calculate the carbon footprint of imported glass because otherwise we would face a carbon leakage problem in Europe. We are doing our best to reduce CO2 emissions in our processes and if imported products increase our emissions, no-one benefits".

 

Read the full interview here.