As Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission said, the wave of renovations will improve the places we work, live and study, while reducing our environmental impact and creating jobs for thousands of Europeans.
In the current context of rising energy prices, this is also a structural way to combat energy poverty by prioritizing the worst performing buildings.
The revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) will make a significant contribution to this strategy. While the Commission intends to publish its proposal in December, five months after the Fit-for-55 package, the central role of the EPBD for the energy transition should not be neglected.
An ambitious wave of renovations is to focus on building users in order to offer comfortable and healthy buildings for everyone and to limit their exposure to rising energy prices. Buildings need to be energy efficient and citizens need to be empowered to produce and store energy and contribute to demand flexibility.
This is essential not only for households, but also for energy-intensive industries that require efficient infrastructure and the availability of affordable CO2-free electricity. As the EU Sustainable Energy Week emphasizes, a transformation of the European energy system is necessary in order to achieve our climate goals.
Buildings: A priority with decarbonization solutions available
Buildings are responsible for around 40 percent of the EU’s energy consumption and 36 percent of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Since at least 75 percent of the building stock is inefficient, the untapped potential of this sector remains enormous.
We can no longer deal with incremental efficiency gains, but have to think about how we can achieve a fully decarbonised built environment.
This requires a combination of energy efficiency measures (such as insulation or heat recovery), the use of renewable (such as PV) and energy storage (thermal or electrical) on site, as well as intelligent and decarbonised technologies. As in many industries, electrification will play a key role.
Space heating is the main energy consumer in buildings, and heat pumps are the most efficient way to generate heat from green electricity. Renewable heat can also come from solar and district heating.
District heating, when available, is an excellent solution and can be upgraded to combine different energy sources – excess heat from industry, solar thermal collectors, heat recovery from other sources – and provide heat storage capacity.
The use of large heat pumps for district heating can create an excellent connection with the renewable electricity sector and, thanks to significant heat storage capacity, can contribute to demand flexibility.
When district heating is not available, heat storage in residential buildings is an excellent way to combine systems such as solar panels and heat pumps while ensuring flexibility between supply and demand. An increase in electrical storage is inevitable, both via standalone batteries and via electric vehicles connected to smart chargers.
With 80 to 95 percent of charging happening at home, buildings will play a critical role in providing the infrastructure for electrifying transport, and that infrastructure will help buildings better manage energy. Smart charging and systems will make it possible to overcome capacity problems and redistribute loads over time.
Ultimately, the local generation of renewable electricity – mainly through photovoltaic systems – will also be dependent on buildings.
Buildings: the key to a decarbonised industry
Once large energy consumers, buildings of the future will become efficient energy centers that play an active role in the energy system through the integration of production, storage and flexibility.
If the right system and pricing policy is applied, this integration of production, storage and flexibility will be beneficial to the consumer, who is able to lower their consumption costs and become a prosumer.
It will also be beneficial to energy infrastructure and other consumers such as energy intensive industries. Indeed, the electrification of industry is a major driver of decarbonization and requires high availability of carbon-free electricity. Competition between industry and consumers for access to CO2-free energy should be avoided.
A highly efficient building stock that generates and stores renewable energy and contributes to flexibility on the demand side is therefore good for households and industry.
The Commission’s toolkit to combat rising energy prices encourages investments in renewable energies, renovations, energy efficiency and storage capacities. Accelerated thorough renovation efforts can accomplish all of these elements.
Everyone should be looking for an ambitious EPBD proposal suitable for 55 in December.