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The building sector can be a main contributor to meet 2030 climate targets

According to a recent report published by the Buildings Performance Institute Europe (BPIE), the average rate of renovation should be increased to at least 3 per cent per year to ensure the renovation of the full building stock by mid-century. This can also lead to sustaining a green economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and improving living conditions for Europeans.

The Commission has published in October its Renovation Wave Strategy to improve the energy performance of buildings, which aims to at least double renovation rates in the next ten years from the current one per cent and make sure renovations lead to higher energy and resource efficiency.

Buildings are responsible for about 40 per cent of the EU’s energy consumption, and 36 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from energy. Therefore, effective action in terms of speeding up the renovation process is crucial to making Europe climate-neutral by 2050 and to mitigate energy poverty.

The paper of BPIE tries to answer the question of how quickly the building sector can reduce its CO2 emissions and what actions will be necessary to achieve this by presenting two possible pathways.

The Moderate Policy Scenario foresees a moderate acceleration of actions compared to current trends and policies, including a doubling of the renovation rate. The Responsible Policy Scenario builds on these measures but increases the depth and speed of change in the sector.

Only the Responsible Policy Scenario achieves emissions reductions in the range of 60 per cent compared to 2015, which is aligned with a 55 per cent GHG emission cut in 2030 as supported by the European Commission and highlighted in the Renovation Wave.

It requires a transformation in the sector which changes current construction and renovation practices and supports the combination of strong efficiency measures with a phasing out of fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy. The scenario delivers an energy saving of almost 25 per cent by 2030 compared to 2015, equivalent to an average energy saving of 2.5 per cent per year.

It’s not going to be an easy process, as the current annual deep renovation rate of 0.2 per cent needs to grow to 2 per cent and should approach 3 per cent as quickly as possible. The scenario describes how the share of fossil fuels in the energy mix in 2030 will decrease by 57 per cent compared to 2015, while the renewable heat and electricity share will grow to 53 per cent of the final energy demand.

According to BPIE, this transformation will only be possible with effective policies and support instruments. For instance, Member States should rigorously follow the nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB) principle for all new buildings. From the beginning of 2021, all new buildings in the EU must be NZEBs, combining very high energy performance with significant renewable energy supply.

Achieving these objectives will also require strategic effort to decarbonise heating and cooling systems and to invest in low-temperature renewable heat supply infrastructure. BPIE highlights that no new fossil fuel heating system should be installed in new construction from 2021 onwards, as any new installation of fossil fuels-based heating systems locks in CO2 emissions for the next two decades.

“The more the transformation is delayed, the higher the effort in increasing renovation rate and depth will have to be in the next decade,” concludes the study.

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