As the incoming US leadership threatens to keep its campaign promises and withdraw from the COP21 Paris climate agreement, signed by a record-breaking 193 countries and counting. Across the Atlantic, the EU have decided that they not only want to adapt to this clean energy transition, they want to lead it.
Last week, the European Commission agreed to a new clean energy transition strategy, building on COP21. The package includes a 30% energy efficiency target, greater focus on efficient buildings, a clarified eco-design framework and measures, and smarter finance to help Europe grow while meeting its climate goals more easily. In essence, the strategy aims to achieve ambitious climate and energy targets whilst maintaining a competitive economy.
"The package will boost the clean energy transition by modernizing our economy. Having led the global climate action in recent years, Europe is now showing example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment. Today's proposals touch upon all clean energy related sectors: research and innovation, skills, buildings, industry, transport, digital, finance to name but a few. These measures will equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition," said Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Energy Union.
It is hoped that these ambitious energy efficiency targets for 2030 can reduce a Member State's dependence on energy imports, boost the local economy, increase its competitiveness and create additional green jobs.
The strategy revolves around four key principles:
1. Setting the framework for improving energy efficiency in general;
2. Improving energy efficiency in buildings;
3. Improving the energy performance of products (Ecodesign) and informing consumers (energy labeling);
4. Financing for energy efficiency with the smart finance for smart buildings proposal.
Buildings play a crucial role in Europe’s hopes to reduce energy consumption, but it is retrofitting older buildings rather than just creating new smart buildings, that will have the greatest impact in Europe’s historic cities.
Buildings account for 40% of Europe’s energy consumption and 70% of the existing building stock is highly inefficient. In fact, two-thirds of the EU’s buildings were built before energy performance standards even existed; yet their renovation rate is only around 1% per year.
The EU hopes to create the right market conditions for increasing the rate and level at which buildings are renovated. This will ensure a stable framework with a long-term perspective and vision towards the decarbonisation of the continent’s buildings, which, it is hoped, will lead to the transformation of the EU building stock while also creating growth and jobs.
The Commission is also proposing ‘smart, simple and supportive’ changes to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive:
* Smart, by encouraging the use of ICT and modern technologies, including building automation and charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, to ensure buildings operate efficiently;
* Simple, by streamlining or deleting provisions that have not delivered the expected output;
* Supportive of building renovation, by strengthening the links between achieving higher renovation rates, funding and energy performance certificates as well as by reinforcing provisions on national long-term building renovation strategies, with a view to decarbonising the building stock by mid-century.
In addition, the Commission is launching a smart finance for smart buildings initiative to unlock private financing for energy efficiency and renewables in buildings at a greater scale. The commission believes these measures can create building renovation market for SMEs with a value of €80-120 billion in 2030.
“The clean energy transition is where the smart money is,” according to the EU Commission. Last year, clean energy attracted a record global investment of over €300 billion, six times greater than in 2004. With these new measures Europe plans to be a frontrunner in implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), not least SDG 7 on affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. In 2030, half of the EU's electricity generation will come from renewables. By 2050 the EU’s electricity should be completely carbon-free.
Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies, set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets. I’m particularly proud of the binding 30% energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions. Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution.”
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