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Energy-efficient buildings: Why MEPs should ban the staged renovation approach

  • Posted on: 16 April 2018
  • By: Yamina SAHEB

The final compromise EPBD text on which the Parliament will vote tomorrow (17 April) includes a requirement for member states to establish long-term renovation strategies.

Introducing the concept of “decarbonised building stock” in the EPBD is a major step towards the implementation of more integrated efficiency and renewable solutions when buildings are renovated.

However, the compromise text considers “staged deep renovation” as one of the options to make Europe’s buildings highly energy efficient and decarbonised by 2050.

Existing policies and measures encourage a step-by-step renovation approach despite the multiple disruptions to consumers which discourage them from implementing the additional measures needed to make their buildings nearly zero energy.

This may explain the lack of evidence about buildings renovated using the staged approach that have reached nearly zero energy consumption.

Furthermore, the resulting technical “deadlock” lowers the “theoretical” cost-effectiveness of the staged renovation approach. Consequently, the staged renovation approach increases the risk of lock-in, lowers energy and carbon savings while increasing the cost of energy renovation.

It is true that the emerging energy renovation market in Europe is a market of staged renovation and has been so far justified by claims that the cost of undertaking all energy renovation works in one step are prohibitive.

These claims are now challenged by data from the field.

OpenExp analysis of energy renovation costs as provided by the French Observatory for Low Energy Buildings, known as the BBC Observatory  show that deep energy renovation is being achieved in France at an average renovation cost of €316/m² for dwellings in multi-family buildings and €374/m² for detached single family homes.

This is significantly lower than energy renovation costs reported by EU funded projects (more than €1,200/m² for deep energy renovation has been reported by CITYNVEST project).

The French recipe to make deep energy renovation cost effective and affordable for all is based on 6 six basic principles:

  1. Energy renovation must be conducted in one step.
  2. A cap is set for the absolute primary energy consumption to achieve after renovation.
  3. A cap is set for the budget to deliver the targeted absolute primary energy consumption target.
  4. All available public finance (EU finance, tax credits, reduced VAT, reduced property tax, eco-loans and EEOs) for energy renovation is bundled.
  5. Energy renovation companies are required to provide offers at the budget set and based on an improved renovation process through an early collaboration of all parties.
  6. Energy renovation costs are calculated for the holistic solution proposed to meet the absolute primary energy consumption set and not as the sum of the costs for each measure taken separately as in the staged approach.

Importantly, the French data show a return on investments of better than 5% for more than half of the projects. This means that these projects could have been financed by private finance without a need for subsidies.

A significant effort across Europe will be needed to make Europe’s buildings highly energy efficient and decarbonised by 2050, as required by the EPBD recast. Scaling-up the French one step deep energy renovation approach is the way forward.

However, transforming the emerging renovation market from a staged renovation to one step deep renovation will not be possible if the staged approach is kept as one of the options in the EPBD recast as lowest initial on-off costs will continue to dominate the market.

Beyond locking Europe’s buildings in carbon, the staged renovation approach locks low income in energy poverty. A responsibility that MEPs should keep in mind when voting tomorrow!