Renovation Wave will have a big impact on cities

Mandatory renovations for city-owned buildings and numerous lobbying wins makes for ambitious proposal

The Renovation Wave proposal from the European Commission landed on Oct. 14th and cities, for better or worse, will be most impacted. There are some bold changes in the proposal but there are also two big open questions that will likely be the difference between success and failure. The objective is to at least double the annual energy renovation rate of residential and non-residential buildings by 2030  with 35 million building units renovated by 2030.

All levels of publicly-owned buildings to be renovated

The proposal includes an obligation for all publicly-owned buildings to be renovated including those owned by local authorities with minimum performance standards. We don’t yet know how deeply or quickly renovations will need to occur but this a big obligation for our members. There will also be 2030 and 2040 targets for building renovation with a view to total decarbonisation by 2050.

There will be no dedicated Renovation Fund. Instead the focus is on making access easier to Cohesion funding, Next Gen EU and National recovery plans as well as the ability to combine all of these funds into more loans and grants. Getting this right will largely determine if the Renovation Wave works or not. The European Investment Bank (EIB) will also be part of the effort to combine technical and project development assistance and funding.

ELENA 2.0 has room for improvement

The European Commission, together with the EIB, will help Member States to design national or local programmes replicating the ELENA model and setting up standardised one-stop shops that can be deployed at national, regional or local levels. Both of these elements reflect Energy Cities’ lobbying efforts and the experience of our members with the ACE-retrofitting project which can help define and design the concept in more details.

Two years ago Energy Cities President Prof. Dr. Eckart Würzner, the Lord Mayor of Heidelberg, Germany raised an issue of contractual issues with Elena at an EIB board meeting and we will continue to be vigilant about its practical application living up to its potential.

Better data, better buildings

The building industry itself will be changed significantly with changes to Digital Building Logbooks, energy audits, Building Renovation Passports and perhaps most importantly, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs). The drive for better EPCs will include a uniform EU machine-readable data format for the certificates and better accessibility in federated digital repositories.

The European Building Stock Observatory may become a central European repository for reliable data on the building stock and its energy performance and would be very useful in removing a stumbling block to large-scale renovations.

EU ETS must be invested in every EU country

Proposals for the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) and EU ETS will all be presented by June 2021.

  • RED Revision will look at minimum renewable levels to be included in all buildings and the development of local and regional heating and cooling plans. There will also be clarification on the role of State-Aid for renewable self-consumption. These two initiatives could provide a real boost for community energy projects.
  • EED Revision will include mandatory renovation of publicly owned buildings as well as strengthen capacity of public authorities to develop comprehensive heating and cooling plans. This should provide strong support for district heating projects and expansion as well as incentives for heat pumps.
  • EU ETS may be extended to include buildings and look at using ETS funds to pay for further investments. This is another lobbying win for Energy Cities as it creates a virtuous circle of funding and emissions reductions. It will also support a specific Affordable Housing Initiative with 100 lighthouse projects which Energy Cities’ members will be able to join.

Concern about national governments

National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) and Long-term Renovation Plans (LTRP) will get specific guidance from the EU on how to boost renovations – this is another open question where it is difficult to underestimate how important these plans are and how much is contingent on their correct implementation. Our analysis of the current NECPs shows a lot of room for improvement.

Another lobbying win was the EU City Facility being highlighted along with the Project Development Assistance Facility under LIFE and the proposed new Technical Support Instrument of the Recovery Plan to help build administrative capacity and provide technical support.

A long-standing demand by Energy Cities has been to better connect urban demand and rural resources. To do this the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) will be available to enhance energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy.

New European Bauhaus

Finally the new European Bauhaus was also launched. It’s unlike anything else in the Renovation Wave. It is described ‘as a movement to bridge the world of science and technology with the world of art and culture’ and ‘making tangible the comfort and attractiveness of sustainable living’. There will be 5 new Bauhaus projects in 5 member states where architects, designers, entrepreneurs and networks develop ideas, designs and technologies around a range of themes – all related to sustainability.