QUESTION 1: Which three EU-wide actions/changes are at the top of your home renovation/energy efficiency sector 'wish list' for 2021?
Adrian Joyce: The introduction of minimum energy performance standards for all homes – high standards that are phased in over time to ensure that the sector can prepare and adjust. We must also increase the desire of homeowners for renovation through increased and continuous information campaigns on the benefits and necessity of undertaking deep energy renovations. Lastly, it is important to Implement, monitor and enforce existing legislation using independent monitoring and evaluation to bring agreed rules into force.
Caroline Milne: "It’s tough to choose only three! In our December publication on the role of buildings towards achieving 2030 climate targets, we explain that the average rate of renovation should be increased to minimum 3% deep renovation per year to ensure renovation of the full building stock by mid-century.
To achieve this, we need better integrated planning across EU policy. 2021 will see the revision of key EU legislation affecting energy efficiency (EED, EPBD and RES directive), which offers the opportunity to ensure a more comprehensive strategy for buildings is built into all three pieces of legislation. Ultimately energy efficiency goes hand in hand with renewable generation and fossil fuel phase out: by 2030 final energy mix in buildings should be 53% renewables. Tightly integrated planning and policy design at all levels for supply- and demand-side measures is crucial to ensure synergies to decarbonise the building stock and to maximise societal benefits. But then beyond planning – we of course need implementation; it needs to be taken seriously by all actors across the value chain.
Next, finalisation and submission of Member States’ Long-Term Renovation Strategies (LTRS) and ambitious implementation of the same. Almost half have not been submitted, over 8 months past the deadline. Our October report additionally shows that of those submitted, few are fully compliant with EPBD requirements. Member States should not miss the opportunity to make building renovation a key part of their recovery strategy. Funding from Next Generation EU can be used to support implementation of these strategies.
Finally, Member States should also rigorously respect legislation on Nearly Zero Buildings (NZEBs) – as of January 1st, all new builds must be NZEB. This will mean that all new buildings will be highly efficient and powered by renewable energy. 2020 has been an incredibly tough year, but energy efficiency offers a golden opportunity for economic growth, long-term sustainable jobs, health and well-being of citizens and above all, for the climate."
Prashant Vaze: The EU taxonomy adopts EPC 'Band A' as the threshold for a green and energy efficient home. I hope that central banks guided by the ECB provide mortgage providers an incentive to reduce interest rates by allowing banks to set-aside less scarce capital against loans they make to energy efficient homes, and lastly that we train unemployed people with the skills they need to undertake energy efficient retrofits.
Tatiana Bosteels: "To date, the energy efficiency investment gap remains too large, while energy efficiency is the single most significant contributor to the enhanced new EU climate targets of 55% GHG emissions reductions by 2030. The EU and Member States should ensure that a significant amount of the +/-30% of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, and the EU MFF dedicated to climate action, is assigned to energy efficiency and building renovation.
Beyond the availability of finance, there is still a crucial need to support the development of pipelines of renovation and energy efficient projects. Blending of advisory services, technical assistance, alongside grants and loans, is necessary to enable the development of renovation projects at a scale that will match investors’ expectations. One crucial aspect of the EU renovation wave ambition will be for the EU to swiftly establish a simplified rules for combining these different funding streams under one financing package.
Ensuring the energy efficiency package within the InvestEU finance initiative targets the building sectors with most needs, namely social and affordable housing, public buildings, schools, and hospitals, and focuses on the multiple benefits of building renovation. Investing in healthy buildings in these sectors represent a joint solution to the climate, health and inequality crisis we are confronting. Dedicated financial products for these sectors should be developed under the InvestEU Social Investment and skills Window and the Sustainable Infrastructure Window."
QUESTION 2: What do you think is the best way to make sure sustainable home renovation remains a hot topic in 2021, ensuring a high volume of projects?
Tatiana Bosteels: "We should be making clear the role of building renovation in supporting economic recovery as part of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility. The emphasis should be on the potential of building renovation to maintain and create jobs and develop green skills in support to the EU economic recovery. To ensure a high volume of energy and renovation projects, MS should capture this potential in their respective National Recovery and Resilience plans."
Prashant Vaze: "The most important thing governments need to do to make sure sustainable home renovation remains a hot topic in 2021 is to bring out policies like the UK, Germany and Denmark to use stimulus money for renovation and to stick with plans even if take-up is low to begin with. Instead of stop-start policy making we need a long term-consistent approach. The reason why the German KfW initiative has been successful with deep retrofits is because they have stuck with the policy for many years."
Adrian Joyce: "By acting on the three recommendations in my answer to question 1. Also, it may be powerful to showcase good completed projects in mass media programmes and/or initiating award schemes that give out prizes to the top ten best performing projects in each country each year."
Caroline Milne: "If the European Council on December 10-11th agrees on a strengthened 2030 climate target to reduce emissions by 55% 1990 levels, this is already an important first step to keeping building renovation “hot”. We know beyond a doubt that buildings are a key factor in Europe's decarbonization strategy; GHG in buildings must reduce by 60% of 2015 levels to get to where we are planning to go.
Upscaling tools and initiatives that make the renovation process easy for homeowners is also crucial. Home renovation is complex, and it can be a big investment; a deterrent for most homeowners. Building Renovation Passports, developed by the iBroad H2020 project, is a great example of a tool that should become the norm across Europe. The tool provides a customized renovation plan, advising residential building on with the best options to achieve deep energy savings, either step-by-step, or in one go. Combined with a Digital Building Logbook, a digital repository of building-related information, the renovation roadmap can trigger renovation. Tools like this can shift mentalities around deep renovation, by making the process easier and even making it attractive to homeowners – this would help unlock project development at scale."
QUESTION 3: Which lasting impact from the pandemic do you predict to observe in the home renovation sector in the middle to long-term?
Caroline Milne: "The pandemic has shown us just how impactful living spaces are on health, well-being and comfort. Poor insulation, poor heating, and bad air quality can exacerbate respiratory conditions – something we have all become too familiar with this year - and can directly impact mental health. In France for example, we know that for homes, medical costs of about 930 million Euro are linked to poor quality housing. Well-designed and executed energy renovation of hospitals reduces the average patient stay by about 11% producing potential savings of about 45 billion Euro per year to the healthcare sector. Going forward, we should expect the buildings to become an important element of the narrative not only on climate change, but also public health."
Tatiana Bosteels: "The health pandemic and economic crisis force us to look at new arguments to confront the challenges head on. In the medium term, the pandemic will enable us to assess building renovation through the lenses of the multiple benefits it delivers. We need to account for the benefits of job creation, new green skills development, and healthy living environments, whether at school, work or homes. The wider social and economic benefits will further justify blending of financial instruments, including more grants and assistance to project development. It will support an increase in the value of buildings as collateral for banks and financial institutions. Such an angle could be an important trigger for investments at the scale required to meet the health and climate crisis."
Adrian Joyce: "My hope is that having been obliged to spend so much of our time at home, the desire for undertaking renovation works will increase. Also because we have not been able to holiday or spend as much as previously, I hope that there are more personal savings accumulated that homeowners will use to renovate their homes.
I expect that a lasting impact will be a huge increase in home-working, where people that can will divide their time between the office and home meaning a more intensive use of buildings in the future."
Prashant Vaze: "The pandemic has created a huge amount of innovation in public-policy making. Government is intervening in markets to an extent it hasnt done before. We are witnessing many programmes around the world that maintain workers by subsidising wages, or keeping viable businesses going by providing them short-term liquidity. There is a need to see this sort of thinking in energy efficiency policy also."