The Renovation Wave will help relaunch our economy but calls for an integrated approach

Buildings are of utmost importance in the decarbonisation efforts of the EU. With 36% of the bloc’s CO2 emissions, green buildings are a necessary steppingstone on the road to climate neutrality. However, buildings are not a source of emissions that is replaced frequently and an overwhelming portion of our building stock is old and carbon-intensive. While the EU has recognised the need to address the built environment form a climate perspective (for example with the revision of the Energy performance of buildings directive -EPBD in 2018), renovation rates have not followed in the footsteps of political will. In order to address the lagging renovation rates across the EU, the European Commission announced a “Renovation Wave” initiative to accelerate renovations and ensuing energy consumption reductions, as part of the Green Deal. This initiative should be presented in autumn.

This Renovation Wave has been welcomed by energy and climate stakeholders but needs to be strong and integrative, taking advantage of all available technologies to incentivise climate- and future-proof buildings. As the European Parliament has already launched a debate on this initiative that will be put forward by the Commission in the autumn, we have seized this opportunity to highlight the opportunities that come with integrated building renovations. 

EuropeOn has joined forces with other like-minded organisation to emphasise the importance of sustainable and overall better buildings. The latter can contribute to the 2050 objectives by minimising energy consumption, generating renewable energy for self-consumption by a single consumer or a community of consumers, and adapting their energy consumption in a flexible way in response to signals received by the surrounding energy system. On top of climate benefits, there are societal gains such as more citizen well-being through increased comfort at home and clean air, a just transition thanks to the creation of green jobs and a robust industrial strategy where pioneering companies in the integrated building sector have tremendous growth potential. 

While such cross-cutting initiatives are needed to meet our climate targets, political support is needed. Indeed, the electrical contracting sector, making up the manpower installing clean and electric technologies, is suffering from recruitment difficulties. It has become increasingly challenging to find sufficient skilled professionals while order books are filling up with demand for new new and green installations such as solar PV, e-mobility charging infrastructure and flexibility systems. This trend is even more worrying in view of the numbers of clean energy installations that will need to take place to meet our climate targets.

To highlight the need for support in this area, EuropeOn and its partners have written to Ciarán Cuffe MEP, shadow rapporteur in the ITRE committee, asking to, among others, “address the urgent need for a skilled and knowledgeable workforce in all trades and specialised crafts of the building sector, notably through targeted actions within the updated Skills Agenda for Europe in 2030, the European Pact for Skills and the Sector Skills Alliances”. We are pleased to note that the draft own initiative report currently under discussion in Parliament calls for “an EU skills initiative in the renovation sector, which includes a gender dimension, in order to engage with stakeholders in retraining, upskilling and capacity building, with a focus on employment”.

Considering the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the “Renovation wave” takes another critical dimension. The European roadmap for recovery and economic stimulus that will follow should be seized as an opportunity to boost a renewed European economic growth, with sustainability at its core. Numerous political and business leaders have called for a Green Recovery and to use the upcoming economic stimulus packages to finance the energy transition. 

Renovating buildings across the EU is both capital-intensive and labour-intensive but will lead to the attainment of our climate neutrality objective. As we are facing an economic crisis, requiring unprecedented capital injections and sound employment strategies, on top of the climate crisis, directing recovery funds toward integrated, and thus green, renovations will unlock the considerable climate and jobs potential of green buildings. 

To read our joint-letter to MEP Ciaran Cuffe: HERE

To know more about our #Skills4Climate campaign: HERE

On renovation and its positive impact to improve electrical safety in buildings, read our article on the FEEDS updated Electrical safety report.