As part of the EU Green Deal, The European Commission’s Renovation Wave Strategy aims to cut emissions, improve quality of life and reduce energy poverty by accelerating home renovations across the EU to improve the energy performance of buildings. Lowering energy consumption needs for households has the benefit of breaking the cycle of high energy bills and arrears, with an estimated 34 million Europeans currently unable to afford adequate home heating or cooling. Moreover, since inefficient buildings increase vulnerability to cold spells and heatwaves, the renovation wave strategy will improve the health and well-being of citizens. The strategy’s target is to double energy renovation rates in the next ten years, leading to greater energy and resource efficiency. The Commission estimates that 35 million buildings could be renovated by 2030, also creating up to 160 000 jobs in the construction sector.
The EU must adopt an encompassing and integrated strategy involving a wide range of sectors and actors on the basis of the following key principles:
-‘Energy efficiency first’ as a horizontal guiding principle of European climate and energy governance and beyond, as outlined in the European Green Deal 9 and the EU strategy on Energy System Integration 10, to make sure we only produce the energy we really need;
-Affordability, making energy-performing and sustainable buildings widely available, in particular for medium and lower-income households and vulnerable people and areas;
-Decarbonisation and integration of renewables. Building renovation should speed up the integration of renewables in particular from local sources, and promote broader use of waste heat. It should integrate energy systems at local and regional levels helping to decarbonise transport as well as heating and cooling;
-Life-cycle thinking and circularity. Minimising the footprint of buildings requires resource efficiency and circularity combined with turning parts of the construction sector into a carbon sink, for example through the promotion of green infrastructure and the use of organic building materials that can store carbon, such as sustainably-sourced wood;
-High health and environmental standards. Ensuring high air quality, good water management, disaster prevention and protection against climate-related hazards, removal of and protection against harmful substances such as asbestos and radon, fire and seismic safety. Furthermore, accessibility should be ensured to achieve equal access for Europe’s population, including persons with disabilities and senior citizens.
-Tackling the twin challenges of the green and digital transitions together. Smart buildings can enable efficient production and use of renewables at house, district or city level. Combined with smart energy distribution systems, they will enable highly efficient and zero-emission buildings.
-Respect for aesthetics and architectural quality. Renovation must respect design, craftsmanship, heritage and public space conservation principles.