EU’s renovation wave to drive sustainability

14 October 2020


Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal

In an effort to cut emissions and drive more sustainable design styles in construction, the European Commission (EC) published on 14 October, 2020, its Renovation Wave Strategy to improve the energy performance of buildings and create a more sustainable economy.

The EC’s plan is to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years and make sure renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency.

Currently, buildings are responsible for about 40% of the EU’s energy consumption, and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions. According to the EC, however, only 1% of buildings undergo energy efficient renovation each year.

Effective action is therefore crucial to achieving EU goals of making Europe climate neutral by 2050.

It is hoped that doubling the rate of renovation will enhance the quality of life for people living in and using the buildings, reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, foster digitalisation and increase the reuse and recycling of materials.

By 2030, the EC stated that 35 million buildings could be renovated, with up to 160,000 additional green jobs created in the construction sector.

According to figures from the EC, nearly 34 million Europeans cannot afford to keep their homes heated. Public policies to promote energy efficient renovation are also a response to energy poverty, aiming to help reduce energy bills.

On October 14, the Commission also published a recommendation for Member States on tackling energy poverty.

Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said, “We want everyone in Europe to have a home they can light, heat, or cool without breaking the bank or breaking the planet.

“The Renovation Wave will improve the places where we work, live and study, while reducing our impact on the environment and providing jobs for thousands of Europeans. We need better buildings if we want to build back better.”

The strategy for the renovation wave will prioritise action in three areas: decarbonisation of heating and cooling; tackling energy poverty and worst-performing buildings; and the renovation of public buildings such as schools, hospitals and administrative buildings.

The Commission proposes to break down existing barriers throughout the renovation chain – from the conception of a project to its funding and completion – with a set of policy measures, funding tools and technical assistance instruments.

The Renovation Wave initiative will be financed through the EU Economic Recovery Program and various support instruments, including incentives for private investment. Member states will only be able to access funds from the €1.8 trillion EU budget and jointly financed recovery facility if they submit plans conforming to broader policy goals.

The strategy will include the following lead actions:

  • Stronger regulations, standards and information on the energy performance of buildings to set better incentives for public and private sector renovations, including a phased introduction of mandatory minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings, updated rules for Energy Performance Certificates, and a possible extension of building renovation requirements for the public sector.
  • Ensuring accessible and well-targeted funding, including through the ‘Renovate’ and ‘Power Up’ Flagships in the Recovery and Resilience Facility under NextGenerationEU, simplified rules for combining different funding streams, and multiple incentives for private financing.
  • Increasing capacity to prepare and implement renovation projects, from technical assistance to national and local authorities through to training and skills development for workers in new green jobs.
  • Expanding the market for sustainable construction products and services, including the integration of new materials and nature-based solutions, and revised legislation on marketing of construction products and material reuse and recovery targets;
  • Creating a New European Bauhaus, an interdisciplinary project co-steered by an advisory board of external experts including scientists, architects, designers, artists, planners and civil society.
  • Developing neighbourhood-based approaches for local communities to integrate renewable and digital solutions and create zero-energy districts, where consumers become prosumers selling energy to the grid.
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