The head of research at a top European think tank dedicated to buildings performance believes the European Commission has failed badly in developing a legislative framework to boost the decarbonisation of heating and cooling systems.

Speaking to Euractiv, Maarten De Groote, the head of research at the Buildings Performance Institute Europe, warned that the failure to address the building stock scenario puts the bloc’s climate goals at risk. Responding, the European Commission said its “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package will increase revenues and accelerate the renovation rate in buildings.

Heating and cooling accounts for around half of Europe’s energy while one third of the total heating demand in Europe goes to heating buildings.

Asked if the EU’s overall climate goals were threatened by poor legislative development, De Groote said, “Definitely. And it is not being addressed sufficiently. To decarbonise European heat demand you need to do three things. First you need to decrease demand by 30% to 50%. Then you have to make your supply side sustainable and efficient. On the supply side they are two levels of playing field. One is individual and the other is collective. On the individual level, if you want to decarbonise you have to switch to heat pumps.”

“If your building has to go towards 80% minimum levels of CO2, the answer is clear. If you know that 75-90% of the current building stock will still be standing, then there is not enough being done to meet the Paris Agreement goals.”

De Groote was particularly damning, when asked if the recent European Commission winter package had helped to initiate

European Commission

policy on the subject in the right direction.

“If you want me to be honest there is hardly anything in there in Commission’s proposal for the revised Energy Performance in Buildings Directive (EPBD). On purely the buildings directive there is hardly anything, except for new buildings, which was in the previous directive already.”
“There is nothing in there in the huge challenge of the current building stock, of which 75 to 90%, will still be there in 2050, on the level of renovation, there is nothing concrete in there. That’s a huge failure.”

De Groote asserted that a roadmap needs to be introduced that takes opportunity of existing systems breaking down in buildings being replaced with new decarbonised heating systems.

Lamenting the lack of hard legislation, he added, “For buildings that is absolutely missing. I hear voices from those operating on energy and district heating that there is more regulation in there but on the level of individual buildings or multi family buildings there is really no hard legislation.”

De Groote recommended directive implementation be followed up, more done to increase the rate of renovations in terms of guidelines and obligations and finally integrating buildings and energy systems.

“Moving buildings away from being individual units, so they can provide energy into the system and control heating and cooling. The golden key is district heating but perhaps that is asking too much,” he said.

In response to De Groote’s comments, Nicole Bockstaller, Press Officer for Energy and Climate Action at the European Commission told Power Engineering International, “We have nothing to add to what is already written in our “Clean Energy for all Europeans” package from November last year.”

“To remind (on) that part of the package the Commission proposed a 30 per cent energy efficiency target till 2030, currently discussed by the Council and the European Parlaiment. According to our estimates, the 30 per cent energy efficiency target will increase Europe’s GDP of €70bn, create about 400,000 new jobs – especially among SMEs – and reduce our gas imports by 12 per cent by 2030.

“This package will accelerate the renovation rate in buildings, having a direct positive impact on the construction and engineering sectors (local jobs, mainly concentrated in SMEs which is impossible to delocalize).”