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The Renovation Wave gathers strength across Europe


Toa Heftiba Nrszruwqmoi Unsplash

Making Europe’s buildings more energy efficient is a crucial step towards Europe reaching a net-zero economy and society by 2050.

Last October, in order to tackle just one of the many  challenges presented, the European Commission launched its  ‘Renovation Wave’ strategy, calling for the energy efficient renovation of 35 million buildings throughout the next decade. It outlined proposals to improve the overall energy performance of Europe’s buildings – three quarters of which were built at a time when construction codes were not considered.

As a key pillar of the European Green Deal, the Renovation Wave not just addresses greenhouse gas emissions  from existing building stock, but aims to alleviate energy poverty and substandard housing conditions for vulnerable groups in society, by improving energy performance.

The ECF network supported the development of the initial Renovation Wave strategy through several months of research. This demonstrated a solid evidence base for its importance to climate, society and economy, as well as the need for strong regulatory policies, targets and financing.

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A strength of the Renovation Wave is its commitment to introduce minimum energy performance standards for existing buildings. This is a smart policy option, it is one of the very few tools that can raise both the rate and depth of renovation.

Minimum standards also ensure that the worst performing buildings, that are disproportionately occupied by low income households, are renovated. An increase of the rate of home renovations of 1% could remove 7 million people from energy poverty.
Louise Sunderland, Senior Advisor at the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP)

ECF’s network in action  

After the European Green Deal was published in late 2019, the ECF brought together building sector stakeholders from businesses, think tanks and NGOs to discuss the Renovation Wave.

The ECF’s diverse network of partners emphasised the importance of building a strong strategy from all angles:

  • A broad coalition of business associations and climate organisations pushed for the inclusion of Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) in the EU legislative framework, the single most effective instrument to make buildings more energy efficient and put them on the  route to decarbonisation by 2050.
  • An open letter was sent to European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans, and the ECF &  Eurima  organised a webinar for European policymakers.
  • The Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP)  issued a report concluding that MEPs be supported by financial aid and practical measures for their implementation.
  • Think tank, Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), highlighted the huge economic potential of building renovation, explaining that for every €1 million invested in energy renovation of buildings, an average of 18 local and long-term jobs are created. This would help to stimulate economic activity  and  mitigate economic damage  caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • CE Delft and Climact released a comprehensive report on main policy routes to decarbonising building stock before 2050, presented to high-level European representatives and to the broader European community.

Next steps

The European Commission will soon develop legislative proposals for several  initiatives, including introducing mandatory Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS)  for existing buildings – which will lead to higher energy and resource efficiency, ultimately enhancing the quality of life for all.   

The Commission’s Renovation Wave sets a positive vision to kick-start the transformation of our buildings. To make it a reality, strong EU legislation must follow, governments must now implement renovation policies and the construction sector must deliver a comprehensive renovation offer.

A collective effort of all actors in the value chain is needed to make our buildings more energy efficient and powered by renewables, healthier and more comfortable, and in line with circular economy principles. This is essential to achieve a much-needed higher 2030 climate goal in Europe.
Oliver Rapf, Executive Director at Building Performance Institute Europe

The Renovation Wave comprises many major initiatives which will each come with their challenges. However, it has the potential to not only achieve better energy performance for buildings but healthier and more comfortable homes for all Europeans, as a part of a socially just and green transition.