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Energy efficiency can help reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels

The European Union is set to reduce fossil gas imports from Russia by two-thirds by the end of 2022, according to the REPowerEU plan. In the long run, it aims to become independent from all Russian fossil fuels well before 2030.

According to the European Alliance to Save Energy (EU-ASE), energy efficiency can play a crucial role in the short to mid-term to greatly reducing Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels.

In 2021, the EU imported 155 billion cubic metres (bcm) of fossil gas from Russia. It represents almost half (45 per cent) of the EU’s total gas imports and nearly 40 per cent of the total amount used. Part of the fossil gas the EU imports is used for space and water heating, making the decarbonisation of the heating and cooling sector paramount in the EU’s plan to cut its dependency on Russian gas. What matters most is that these energy savings can be realised with existing technologies and solutions made in Europe.  

EU-ASE’s paper presents a series of measures suggested to reach this goal. Among those, the association underlined the importance of automatically adjusting energy use in buildings by using technologies like software and engineering services to deliver a comfortable environment.

The energy savings potential of building automation and control systems (BACS) is known. Installing BACS is an essential part of any renovation project: the installation requires small upfront costs estimated at 30 euros/square metre in non-residential buildings and 12 euros/square metre in residential buildings. According to industry estimates, the value of savings generated exceeds the value of investments by a factor of 9. Thus, an ambitious transposition of the BACS measures included in the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) could lead to savings corresponding to 14 per cent of the total building final energy consumption by 2038. Additionally, this level of annual energy savings equals 46 bcm of fossil gas saved per year, about 29.67 per cent of the EU’s imports from Russia in 2021.

Another suggested measure combines the integration of renewables and electrified heat in buildings. For example, heat pumps are energy efficient and electricity-based technical heating systems that can replace gas boilers for heating. Heat pumps deliver heat even at 600 per cent efficiency depending on overall building energy performance levels compared with a gas heater at 50 per cent to 95 per cent efficiency. The IEA says that speeding up the anticipated deployment of heat pumps by doubling the current EU installation rates would save an additional 2 bcm of gas use within the first year (about 1.3 per cent of the EU’s gas import from Russia in 2021), requiring a total additional investment of 15 billion euros.

Of course, also the regulatory framework must change in line with the new targets. Within the Fit for 55 legislative package, EU-ASE recommends fast-tracking the adoption and implementation of the EPBD and the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) which have a clear, direct impact on the EU’s overall energy consumption.

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