Promoting Deep Renovation Buildings across the EU

Maria Fabianelli, FEDARENE Vice-President for Energy Efficiency and Investments and director of IRE Liguria, discusses the interventions needed to improve the retrofitting of buildings, especially deep renovations needed on the massive scale, highlighting the role IRE Liguria in the process.

Promoting Deep Renovation Buildings across the EU

“The green recovery starts at home” – said Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson introducing the “Renovation Wave”, the strategy for improving the energy efficiency of buildings published by the EC in the wider framework of the Green Deal.

The European building stock is both unique and heterogeneous, expression of the rich cultural and historic heritage of our Continent. It is also old and inefficient, responsible for 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of emissions from energy. At the same time, energy poverty remains a challenge for nearly 34 million of Europeans, who are unable to afford keeping their home adequately warm. Despite this, energy renovation is still a rarity (only 1% of buildings every year), so effective action is crucial to bridge the gap between the current situation and Europe’s climate ambitions.

The need to promote the retrofitting of the EU building stock appears even more urgent in view of the recent pandemic, which has highlighted the importance of buildings as well as their fragilities. Never before has the “home” been so much the focal point of our daily lives, not just the place where we eat and sleep but also the place where we study and work. Never before public buildings (hospitals and schools) and private buildings (commercial and residential) have been under such severe strain, having to adapt to multiple challenges and changes.

Building renovation can play a driving role for the sustainable recovery of the next decade, with positive impacts at the environmental, social and economic levels. However, energy renovation is still struggling to spread, hindered by multiple barriers related to complexity, costs and slowness. How can we promote interventions to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, especially deep renovations and on the massive scale needed? Of course, finding finance for implementing renovation actions is key. The experience of the Energy Agency of Liguria shows that using innovative financing tools such as EPC (in our case, through investment programmes such as EIB-ELENA and H2020 PDA) is worthy, but usually focus on replacing heating plants and light insulations, and almost never reach the deep renovation level. This is mostly due to the mild climate conditions of Med countries, which lengthen the payback time of the investment, making it difficult for an ESCO to opt for deeper interventions.

Recently, Italy has been experimenting with new financing instruments for energy such as the so-called “Superbonus”. This tool allows private citizens, social housing and non-profit organizations to carry out renovations even when they do not have the funds thanks to a discount (on the invoice) from the suppliers of the goods or services, or even request the transfer of the credit corresponding to the deduction.

A further opportunity could consist in an increased integration between energy efficiency and renewables for building renovation, especially in those buildings where it is impossible to act on the envelope, and resorting whenever possible to innovative forms of collective self-consumption.

What is certain is that IRE Liguria will keep exploring and implementing financing solutions to increase the deep renovation of buildings, together with our colleagues from energy agencies and regions across Europe. One of them, which is highlighted in the next pages through several best practices, is technical assistance or one-stop-shops.

Operationalising renovation strategies remains an important challenge that Regions and Energy Agencies are eager to solve.

Jean Van Pamel – FEDARENE Treasurer