Report calls for tougher EU energy efficiency targets

A new report published by Build with CaRe has proposed a new EU target of a 40 percent reduction in primary energy demand by 2050. The EU’s existing target of a 20 percent improvement on energy efficiency is faltering at the moment, with the EU currently on track to only achieve about a 10 percent improvement.

The report titled, Refurbishing Europe: An EU strategy for energy efficiency and climate action led by building, authored by Dr Bruce Tofield and Martin Ingham of the University of East Anglia, recommends that a radical improvement in the energy efficiency of new-builds, combined with a comprehensive rollout of energy efficiency measures retro-fitted on existing properties, is key to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions – and Europe should be leading the way.

“By making its building stock energy efficient, the EU can demonstrate that economic growth is consistent with reduced energy demand and lead the transition to a sustainable world. A long-term target of 40 percent reduction in primary energy demand would galvanise the near-term action on energy efficiency that is essential if action to tackle potentially dangerous climate change is to succeed,” commented Dr Tofield.

“Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of Europe’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, so overhauling their energy efficiency represents the greatest opportunity for energy saving and greenhouse gas reduction.”

John Helmfridsson, a passive house expert for Passivhuscentrum Västra Götaland in Sweden, a Build with CaRe partner, agrees: “Energy efficiency is becoming a main competitive advantage to countries and companies investing in the issue. Not to use or further develop knowledge would be hazardous, not only to the environment but to the European economy.”

The report identifies a range of barriers blocking significant uptake. Political, structural, industrial and social barriers are currently preventing the necessary rate of low-energy refurbishment of Europe’s buildings.

Dr Tofield agrees with the EU Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050 which asserts that a large reduction in energy demand is achievable and that very energy efficient buildings should become the standard, but maintained that many barriers still remained.

“The biggest barrier is lack of political will to accelerate progress in energy efficiency,” he said.

“New build ambition is insufficient and the rate of building refurbishment to achieve high standards of energy efficiency is far too low. Political will to transform buildings will demonstrate EU leadership on climate action post-Durban. Cities across the EU can lead this change.”

Brian Smithers, Business Development Director for Rexel UK, agreed with the ambitious targets, but believes that education is key to deeper market penetration, stating: “Yes, the targets suggested by Build with Care are ambitious, but in terms of technology we have everything we need to radically improve the energy efficiency of new and existing buildings. It’s a lack of awareness that is really hampering greater energy efficiency as neither consumers nor even sometimes people in the industry have access to the information they need.

“For example, Rexel’s recent energy efficiency survey found that over a quarter of Brits would be motivated to save energy if they had access to financial subsidies, yet 90% hadn’t heard of schemes such as Carbon Trust Loans."

Smithers concluded: “For the EU to meet its existing or even more ambitious targets, initiatives like the Green Deal must deliver results. There needs to be more emphasis on education, both for consumers and for developers and specifiers.”