EuropeOn took an active part in the 2020 European Union Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW), which gathers for one week every year energy stakeholders from Europe and beyond. This year’s edition was one of a kind, since it went 100% digital and welcomed for the first time the new Commission and Parliament.
The agenda was altered to take into account the new context of recovery, a change that made perfect sense for EuropeOn: with almost 2 million professionals across Europe and 300.000 companies – a large majority of SMEs- working mostly in the construction sector, activity has often stopped and demand has slowed-down a lot. On the other hand, new opportunities will emerge if public authorities do push in favour of a green recovery fostering energy renovation in buildings, energy efficiency, deployment of renewable energy, e-mobility, all sectors in which electrical contractors are directly involved.
I was thrilled to bring the electrical contracting sector’s perspective on energy transition, construction policies, skills and climate-neutrality through two events.
First, EuropeOn contributed to the policy conference “Spurring Europe’s Renovation Wave – how #BetterBuildingsEU can contribute to #EUGreenRecovery” along with other members of the Better Building Alliance as well as three EU representatives : Pernille Weiss, member of the European Parliament (European Popular party – Denmark), Inge Bernaerts, Head of Unit actively involved in the upcoming Renovation Wave Strategy at the European Commission, and Dirk Roos from the European Investment Bank. This was a much awaited for event as it totalised over 750 online registrations.
The Better Building Alliance presented 5 recommendations to drive integrated renovations:
- Develop a multi-level implementation platform (by EHPA – European Heat-pump association)
- Revamp blended financing mechanisms accessible to all (by BPIE – Building Performance Institute Europe)
- Address the urgent need for a skilled and knowledgeable workforce in the building sector (by EuropeOn)
- Develop tools that raise awareness and accompany end-users in their renovation journey, as the proposal for a new “Building Performance Passport” (by SmartEn – Smart Energy Europe)
- Promote renovation strategies that overcome decision-making fragmentation, adapt to the particularities of the built environment and specificities of each building segment (by EuroACE – European Association of Companies for energy efficiency in buildings)
As General Secretary of EuropeOn, I insisted on the strategic role of skills to make of the Renovation Wave a success, in line with the Green Deal and a green recovery. Skills should not be regarded as a secondary concern since 77% of all EU firms say lack of staff with the right skills is a barrier to invest and 25% of SMEs say it is their most important problem. This is why, in order to meet the objectives of a resilient recovery and of climate neutrality by 2050, the energy transition needs the definition and deployment of new skills. Lots of initiatives are emerging here and there, often with national or European support but we now must be as ambitious in our means as in our goals.
Consequently, I reiterated EuropeOn’s asks to policymakers:
- Intertwine Skills and Climate in the EU and national recovery plans – climate-related skills must become a horizontal priority. It means re-skilling professionals from fossil activities to clean ones, or from sectors which have been severely threatened by the Covid situation to more promissing alternatives, such as those taking advantage of the energy transition and digitalization. It also means up-skilling workers to embrace the full potential of their fast-evolving activity. Besides, it means attracting students and young professionals to careers requiring increasing qualifications thanks to digitalization, cross-disciplinarity and purposeful missions,
- Give a key role to the Renovation Wave Strategy which has the potential to be the right instrument for skills, as buildings are critical hub to reach climate-neutrality targets,
- Strengthen public/private partnerships to ensure labour market orientation and high employability,
- Make use of the Just Transition Fund to re-skill workers towards clean activities and sectors.
During the second half of this policy conference, MEP Pernille Weiss thanked the Better Building Alliance for the 5 recommendations. She reassured all panellists on the fact that many of the suggestions presented today had been taken into account in the parliamentary discussions on the Renovation Wave, in particular on skills.
Mrs. Bernaerts also highlighted that all 5 recommendation were highly relevant to the Renovation Wave. When asked about the proposal of a new EU financial facility of roughly 90 billion euros a year for renovation in Europe – which was described in a leaked draft document from the Commission- she answered however that this was “maybe not a good idea”. Considering the key role that all high-level EU policymakers are giving to the Renovation wave for a speedy and sustainable recovery, and given that the Commission’s ambition is to at least double current renovation rates, not deploying a dedicated financing mechanism with matching ambition might, in EuropeOn’s view, undermine the Renovation Wave’s objectives. The Renovation Wave Strategy is still in preparation and its presentation is expected for September.
Furthermore, EuropeOn participated to a second EUSEW online event: the first of three “Electric break” sessions focused on electrification, with the support of Energy Norway. In this very different format, speakers were invited to discuss a given topic without prepared presentations. With Ana Maria Sanchez Infante from the Commission (DG ENER), Laura Cozzi (from the International Energy Agency) and Marion Labatut (from EDF), we talked about the role of electrification to reach climate neutrality. Not a “trick question” for electrical contractors as our members know very well that electricity is highly efficient, is increasingly based on renewable sources and is now a shovel-ready alternative in more and more sectors.
In addition, this discussion gave EuropeOn the opportunity to present briefly and for the first time our long-term vision: we want to contribute to a climate-neutral and jobs-driven Europe. To achieve this twin goal, we believe that electrification in buildings and transports will be key. Buildings are an excellent starting point as they can become a hub for smart sector integration – integrating mobility, heating, and renewable power generation – paving the way for decarbonization, energy efficiency and digitalization.
Beyond public events, EuropeOn is very active to bring the European electrical contractors’ voice to Brussels, on all relevant upcoming policies, participating in consultations and joint positions on the Renovation Wave, Smart Sector integration and the revision of the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive, to name a few.