Policy papers

Renovate to innovate Europe’s green ambitions

14 September 2020

Without a deep and comprehensive ‘renovation wave’ across Europe, the EU will not be able to meet its climate ambitions. That’s because the building sector is both the largest single energy consumer in Europe, and because 80% of today’s buildings will still be standing in 2050.

Given these twin reasons, Eurocities’ new position paper supports calls to increase the rate at which European buildings are currently being renovated – to at least 3% per year. Moreover, contends the cities network, such a scenario brings cause célèbre for a double ‘win’: renovating more buildings can create jobs, and by making buildings more energy efficient, can lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, while city authorities are often large landlords themselves, managing extensive portfolios of public buildings, and can make a big difference to the proposed renovation wave by renovating easy-to-reach buildings such as schools and hospitals, this is not the case for all public, or indeed privately rented buildings. Historic buildings, multi-owner properties, or rented properties can be hard-to-reach and harder to renovate.

The conception and design of the proposed renovation wave, a constituent part of the EU’s Green Deal package, must therefore account for the sheer variety of the building sector; allowing for renovation to lead to a deeper integration into local energy markets, bearing in mind the principles of the circular economy, and the quality of renovations.

Eurocities also points out that much can be done to ease the burden at the local level, including allowing for sufficient flexibility for cities to reflect on what approach works best for them locally; by supporting innovation; and replicating successful initiatives – especially those that need investment in the deployment of innovative technology; and by supporting local and regional coordination efforts.

With the proposed target 3% renovation rate per year, combined with an average energy demand reduction of 75%, the network suggests that the introduction of minimum energy performance targets at EU level, currently only set at national level, could be a mechanism to trigger further renovations. The design of such legislation, according to the network, would have to be accompanied by a framework that offers financial and technical support, such as measures to advise building owners and occupants, especially the most vulnerable groups that face energy poverty.

Other advancements proposed by the network include:

  • the upgrade of Energy Performance Certificates to ‘Building passports’ which would open up the possibility for some building owners to take a staged approach to renovation;
  • the establishment of a renovation fund, managed at EU level that would grant fast-tracked project approval; and
  • tackling energy poverty and supporting vulnerable groups by working with tenants to help make sure that renovation costs are balanced by energy savings and don’t become a burden for residents.

If managed correctly, the renovation wave can be a key element for the post-COVID19 recovery and of the Green Deal. It can trigger new investments to restart the economy, create new quality jobs, and deliver a just and inclusive transition for European citizens.

Read the full paper here: Eurocities policy paper on the Renovation Wave


Eugenia Mansutti Projects coordinator & Policy Advisor (Covenant of Mayors, Climate and Energy)