The European Commission increases its pace to achieve a climate neutral Europe. On 14th October 2020, it published three strategies, which shall take the next steps to implement the Green Deal. One of them concerns a renovation wave with the aim to double the renovation rate.
Europe has 220 million buildings. The predominant share of these, namely 85 %, were built before 2001, and can – from today’s point of view – not be classified as energy efficient. No less than 40 % of the overall energy consumption and 36 % of greenhouse emissions in the EU can be traced back to buildings. Thus it is clear that huge efforts have to be made to reach the target of the Green Deal to achieve energy neutrality by 2050, including the building sector: each year, only 0.2 % of the building stock in the EU is deeply renovated to such an extent that the energy consumption is reduced by at least 60 %.
With this in mind, the Commission has set itself an ambitious long-term target: 35 million building units shall be renovated by 2030. This renovation wave shall also be used to make a contribution to the economic recovery after the Coronavirus crisis, to secure jobs, to support research and to spur digitalisation. The Commission expects this renovation wave to create 160,000 additional jobs for the building sector, which has been strongly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Financing shall be guaranteed first and foremost by the future Multiannual Financial Framework and the Next Generation EU Recovery Plan. The Commission has announced 23 concrete measures to be taken by 2023; these reach from new standards for a deep renovation via the transition to unified digital permitting to promoting energy communities.
Of particular importance for Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is the European Bauhaus, which is part of the renovation wave. Hence, the renovation wave shall not only renovate the building stock, but also ring in a development towards more sustainability and aesthetics, promote innovation and creativity as well as bringing together experts from art, culture, science and technology.
The strategy also addresses the issue of energy poverty. Currently almost 34 million people living in the EU are not able to heat their flats or houses sufficiently. The Commission recognises the problem that in particular people on a low income often have little influence on their energy costs. Thus, 800,000 social homes each year have to be renovated to effectively tackle this problem. The Commission estimates the costs to achieve this to be 57 billion Euro. Apart from that, the Commission intends to provide the Member States with recommendations for the fight against energy poverty and to start an initiative for affordable housing. The Commission is considering making income from the emission trading system (ETS) available to finance national projects fighting against energy poverty. Ultimately, 100 lighthouse projects to renovate entire districts according to district-related concepts shall be carried out.
The Austrian Chamber of Labour welcomes the fact that the issue of energy poverty has been given much thought within the scope of the renovation wave. In particular low-income households see a significant part of their monthly fixed costs swallowed up by energy bills. At the same time, they do not have the financial means to take energy efficiency measures. Hence, in particular these households need direct financial support for energy-saving renovations, which they do not need to repay. However, it must also be ensured that promoting renovations does not diminish the rights of tenants and that they are protected against any excessive increase of their rent in the wake of renovations.