This year, the EU Sustainable Energy Week celebrated its 13th anniversary and INNOPATHS was invited to present some of its early results in this important event. The EU Sustainable Energy Week, which took place in Brussels last week (June 4-8), is the annual flagship event in the EU in which sustainable energy policy is at the centre of the debates and discussions among stakeholders from the governmental, industrial, academic, and non-for-profit communities. The European Commission´s Directorate General for Energy (DG Energy) and the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) join forces by focusing the 2018 conference on the theme – “Lead the clean energy transition”.
The theme clearly resonated. The conference included 60 sessions and more than 2,500 participants. We found that discussions involving energy efficiency policies attracted special interest during last week. With the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) on the table, Ms. Mechthild Wörsdörfer, Director in charge of renewables, research and innovation, energy efficiency of the DG Energy of the European Commission, highlighted that energy efficiency will bring “multiple benefits, such as lower cost of the energy transition, reduced energy bills for the most vulnerable, a more lenient and competitive EU economy, higher quality of life and cleaner air and environment”.
Since INNOPATHS is an innovative project in substance and form aiming to generate new state-of-the-art low-carbon pathways for the European Union, we did not want to miss out on the opportunity to contribute to the discussion of policies to facilitate deep energy renovation in buildings.
I presented the work of the University of Cambridge (with Prof. Laura Diaz-Anadon), the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change (CMCC) (Dr. Elena Verdolini) and the European University Institute (Dr. Stefano Verde) developing one of the four innovative online tools coming out of the project. In particular, I provided some early results from the prototype of the online Policy Evaluation Tool, which we designed with Nice&Serious (N&S) (Peter Larkin and his team), to inform policy makers and other stakeholders on the impacts of different policies on a wide range of outcomes (including economic, environmental, and social) in a panel with Commission and other European project representatives.
I presented INNOPATHS insights on the main innovations of the project, the barriers encountered for deep renovation of the residential building stock in the EU, as well as policy recommendations to overcome those obstacles. Using a systematic review of research on Building Codes and White Certificates collected for the Policy Evaluation Tool prototype, we presented some of the barriers envisioned for deep renovation in buildings to improve energy efficiency, among others:
- A poor understanding of the causes of policy failures in the buildings sector
- Aged building stock in some EU jurisdictions
- Lack of evidence in or applicable to Southern European contexts
- Aversion towards more stringent regulatory policies
- Lack of trust in the realization of expected savings
- Non-negligible welfare impacts in low income households
I found that the introduction of the Policy Evaluation Tool received a warm welcome and interest from the many attendees to the session on Deep Energy Renovation.
In addition to the panel, the audience were able to contribute to the debate by answering the following question: “According to you, which are the most important barriers hampering wide-scale energy renovation in Europe”. With 43 answers, 44% of the respondents said that the lack of knowledge and interest of the building owners was the main barrier, followed by a 30% who highlighted the lack of convincing financing solutions and a 28% reporting that the main obstacle was an unfavourable regulatory environment, incoherent policies and support schemes. These barriers for deep renovation highlighted by the stakeholders are surprisingly aligned with the early findings from the Policy Evaluation Tool on how to overcome key barriers.
Of special interest was the agreement among participants regarding the need to guide EU and national level policies in the building sector towards: the remodelling and renovation of the existing stock of buildings, the important role of finance schemes to undertake such works and the digitalization of the sector. The latter resonates with the recent creation in the UK of the Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB). The importance of increasing the ambition of long-term targets for countries in terms of energy efficiency or energy savings, the provision of innovative financial schemes to support digitalisation in buildings, and the need to improve information in an accessible way for households’ owners and tenants to create a demand for green buildings were recurring themes.
All in all, it seems clear that projects such as INNOPATHs are crucial for informing policies in the building sector to continue working towards a sustainable, clean and fair future for everyone.
Christina Penasco @chrispenasco