Columnists: Nils Borg, European Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Published on: 11 Mar 2016

Beautiful roadmaps, but do they get us where we want to go?

What does it actually mean to be on track? To me that sounds as if everything is more or less OK, as long as we make sure we stay awake and don’t fall asleep over the steering wheel. But when we are told that European Member States are on track to deliver deep building renovations I wonder what roadmap they are using.

Recently JRC published a report on the Energy Efficiency Directive´s obligation on EU Member States to prepare building renovation roadmaps. The report, based on national Member State reporting, presented a rather rosy picture of the state and progress of building renovation in Europe. But relying only on Member State roadmaps to draw this conclusion is difficult at best. In the worst case, these roadmaps may lead us to pathways without exit and with no prospects of getting where we want to end up.

The landscape of European Directives is at times confusing and Articles you think would be found in a Directive for buildings´ energy performance (EPBD) may just as well be found in the Directive for Energy Efficiency (EED). This is not so strange as it sounds, since the EED deals with all sectors, including buildings. Take Article 4 of the EED which deals with building renovation strategies.

Article 4 has a number of requirements. Basically each Member State (MS) must set out a long-term strategy to encourage investments and innovation in building renovation. The ultimate aim is to eventually turn existing buildings into nearly zero energy buildings, or as close as possible, through deep renovations. In order to achieve this, each MS must create an overview of the national building stock, energy use, potentials, and so on. Based on that MSs identify cost effective policies to renovate different types and categories of buildings.

And what about the JRC evaluation and the national renovation roadmaps? As part of their National Energy Efficiency Actions Plans (NEEAP), each MS must report on their building renovation roadmaps to the European Commission. JRC has now evaluated the renovation roadmaps, and the conclusion: We are on track!

This brings us back to the issue of the roadmap and the actual landscape. According to the evaluation, Europe as a whole is on track to deliver deep renovations in Europe. Ten countries are described as exemplary and others in various shades of doing well.

I think we are in deep trouble if we trick ourselves into complacency, if we think we don’t really need to do more. Everyone working with building renovations in Europe certainly knows that we are far from doing well. And most experts can testify to the fact that the plans being designed around Europe are not ambitious and when they are, tend to rely on ineffective measures.

This is not a criticism of JRC’s excellent staff, who most likely have carried out the job just as they were assigned in an impeccable way. We must ask ourselves if just relying on Member States´ own descriptions is enough when evaluating EU and national policies.

I am sure we are not doing enough. But you shouldn’t take my word for it, there are more balanced views on national energy efficiency policies being prepared at this very moment.

The Commission-funded Energy Efficiency Watch project (where eceee is an active partner) does exactly this. Energy Efficiency Watch has studied the NEEAPs, but in addition we have asked more than 1000 European experts through an on-line survey about the state and progress of energy efficiency in their respective countries. In addition, we have carried out deep interviews with almost 100 experts throughout Europe in order to get a more nuanced and realistic picture of what is going on.

Energy Efficiency Watch is due to publish a flood of reports very shortly, for Europe as a whole and for individual Member States. I can assure you that you will get a much more realistic image of what is happening in Member States, and perhaps you will be helping your country to draw better roadmaps that are a more true reflection of reality. So stay tuned.


Also, today we are proud to launch a new format for our eceee news service. We do hope you will enjoy it. We had great fun creating it! Please let us know what you think by dropping us an e-mail .

Other columns by Nils Borg