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Opportunities and obstacles for an energy efficient housing stock

Discussion about energy policy in the European Parliament

Brussels, 29 September 2017 | Published in Energy
More than 50 energy experts discussed the upcoming changes in the EU Energy policy
More than 50 energy experts discussed the upcoming changes in the EU Energy policy

The ongoing revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) creates opportunities to strengthen the housing sector‘s contribution to combatting climate change. This does not only mean further requirements for the building envelope – also supplying buildings with renewable energy is an important ele-ment Under the patronage of MEPs Jens Geier, chairman of the German parliamentary S&D group, and Dr Markus Pieper, general secretary and energy policy spokesman of the German EPP delegation, GdW in co-operation with its Dutch partner association AEDES Housing Netherlands and their European umbrella association Housing Europe invited MEPs and stakeholders from the housing industry to a Parliamentary discussion meeting.

Amongst others the MEPs emphasised social benefits are created where the energy transition is implemented in a cost-effective manner.

Dr Ingrid Vogler, GdW energy expert introduced different scenarios showing changes in cost of living in practise with and without charges depending on the level of energetic modernisation.

Bert Wijbenga from AEDES and chair of the Housing Europe energy committee pictured the ambitious modernisation roadmap of Dutch Social Landlords, but also highlighted this will not have any effect on the 62% of dwellings owned and rented by the private sector in the Netherlands.

Dr Nikolas Müller of the Technical University of Darmstadt presented these findings in his study on "Energy and climate policy for the building sector."  He explained the many perspectives on housing as the points of view of tenants, owners and producers of housing differ significantly. But diverging approaches to different goals generate extremely diverse results. For housing it is not a question of technical feasibility but a matter of social and economic practicability. Member states with an already largely renovated housing stock could readjust their policy following the criteria of emission reduction and final energy consumption. He pleaded for an extended approach and proposed two indicators for CO2 emissions and final energy use as an alternative to primary energy use and thermal loss. Member States, especially with a high energetic refurbishment rate, need an alternative option in order to further contribute to combatting climate change, e.g. a neighbourhood-oriented approach rather than single building focus. The combination of climate friendly energy supply from renewable energy sources and optimal reduction of final energy use allows combatting climate change in a socially acceptable manner.

Paula Rey Garcia, team leader in the European Commission’s DG Energy showed the according policy approaches. Cost-optimality as a tool allows for the member states to set different priorities even if coming from different starting points. The currently discussed directives merely determine minimum levels based on more sustainable buildings and transparency aspects. The emphasis is on looking at the entire building, the gradual modernisation of the building codes and a stronger link between finance and good quality energy performance certificate schemes with better data.

Housing Europe Secretary General, Sorcha Edwards underlined the need to shape the energy transition in a fair way where finance is central. She pointed at the problems derived from the European semester and the complexity in making use of structural funds in many member states.

The current strategy for combatting climate change reaches its limits. Climate goals in the housing sector are currently achieved by measures that focus on the building façade. Some Member States have already recorded significant improvements in recent years. In Germany, already more than 67 per cent of the buildings of GdW members have undergone partial or complete energetic refurbishment. But here lies the problem: Increasingly demanding standards entail high financial expenses while achieving fewer additional energy savings

At the same time the tenants’ total housing costs keep rising despite lower energy bills. The housing sector urged political decision makers to complement the European energy efficiency strategy with these components.