Columnists: Louise Sunderland, Independent consultant

Published on: 24 Jan 2017

What does the Winter Package do for building renovation?

As calm prevails after the initial storm of responses to the Commission’s Winter Package, I realise that I haven’t read an analysis of what the proposed changes do to promote building renovation. So, I will try to fill that gap.

The headline of the package is the binding energy efficiency target of 30% by 2030. And there is much in the Commission’s explanatory documents that emphasises the importance of building renovation in achieving this target. We are reminded that currently the rate of building renovation is at just 0.8%-1.2% a year. Yet the package also states the aim of decarbonising the building stock by 2050.

So what do the latest proposals do to catapult us from where we are onto the path to a decarbonised building stock, raising both the rate and the depth of building renovation?

The answer disappointingly is not terribly much, and certainly not enough.

The second headline in the package is the extension to 2030 of the requirement for Member States to deliver energy savings of 1.5% annually through an energy efficiency obligation (EEO) or ‘alternative measures’.

The extension is expected to deliver half of the savings needed to reach the 30% target but is it possible to say how this will help building renovation? Policies reported under Article 7 requirement show that the building sector leads as the source of savings. So far so good.

However, the ENSPOL project on effective implementation of Article 7, has identified that EEOs have targeted relatively low cost measures, of which the building sector has offered a multitude. As the opportunities in the sector run out, the focus of programmes very well might shift to seek out low hanging fruit in other sectors like industry or transport. Deep, staged, renovations of buildings, although highly cost effective from a social point of view, are not low hanging fruit. A conclusion from ENSPOL provides caution: It is difficult, for example, to see how EEOs could support deep and complex refurbishment.

On the brighter side ENSPOL is more positive about the potential for ‘alternative measures’ under Article 7 to deliver higher cost measures in the buildings sector. So, although the longer term certainty provided by the extension of the target has to be a good thing, will the drive to deliver cost effective savings create barriers to the longer term goal of deep renovation?

To my mind the next most important proposal from the perspective of building renovation is the Smart Financing for Smart Buildings initiative. It focusses on the better use of public money and on de-risking and aggregating projects to make them more accessible to private finance.

Efforts to make extensive low cost finance available to consumers are essential but are not without their hurdles, as experience in the UK with the Green Deal has taught us. The key is not only to focus from the top down and remove barriers that prevent money flowing down but also to focus from the bottom up to ensure that demand for the finance is created and that once the demand has been created consumers have the right support to see their projects through. In the Commission’s proposals this support, described as a ‘one-stop-shop for project developers’, stops short of reaching the consumer. And as my previous blog pointed out, support for the consumer is in short supply throughout the rest of the package.

In other changes, the potential trigger points of building system inspections are written out where building automation is in place. I have no evidence on how effective these inspections and recommendation reports have been at triggering renovations but what is notable in this context is that nowhere in the package could I see the importance of trigger points recognised.

The use of effective interventions at trigger points are opportunities to create demand for renovations are too good to overlook. Yet the Winter Package has overlooked them.

Finally, National Renovation Strategies are repeatedly referenced in the Commission documentation as a key for driving up national renovation rates. However, the proposed changes grace them with only bureaucratic attention. The strategies were intended to be the calling card for member states to attract investment into their building stocks but their first iterations revealed huge variations in their quality and, with a few notable exceptions, they failed to provide the long-term vision.

Missing the opportunity to make changes to improve the next iterations of the strategies, the Winter Package proposes only paper shuffling changes - moving them from EED to the EPBD and from one annexe, of the NEEAP, to another, of the new National Energy and Climate Plans. These changes do nothing to address some of the real shortcomings in the National Renovation Strategies – strategies that surely must be the spring board from which we launch the renovation revolution we need.

In summary, I can see little in the Winter Package that convinces me that the proposals as they stand will bring about the step change we need to decarbonise the building stock in a little over 30 years. This must be something we can change.



The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Louise Sunderland