‘Clean Energy for All Europeans’: Implications for Energy Efficient Renovations of Buildings

On November 30, 2016 the European Commission proposed a complex package of policy measures related to energy and climate change policies titled ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’. The EU’s final goal is to carry out a transition to clean energy, while also ensuring economic growth and creating new jobs. The objective for 2030 is to reduce CO2 emissions by 40%. To achieve this target, the package addresses the policies regulating renewable energy, energy efficiency, eco-design, rules governing the Energy Union, and other. Energy performance of buildings is also included in this package and needs to be paid particular attention, as buildings account for 40% of the total energy consumption in the EU. Recognizing the need to reduce this number, the European Commission proposed some essential changes to the key European directives concerning energy efficiency of buildings.

Probably the most important change that ‘Clean Energy for all Europeans’ means for energy efficiency renovations of residential buildings is a new article added to the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Article 2a amends the rules and timeframe for EU Member States to create national building renovation strategies – a regulation that was previously part of the Energy Efficiency Directive. Apart from the already existing obligation to ‘establish a long-term strategy for mobilising investment in the renovation of the national stock of residential and commercial buildings, both public and private’, Article 2a states that the strategies should also contribute to alleviation of energy poverty. This is a very important addition that indicates that the European Commission recognizes energy poverty as an issue that needs to be addressed on the European level. Another regulation that obliges Member States to create conditions that would facilitate individuals to invest in energy efficient renovations of their homes would also contribute to alleviation of the energy burden many households in Europe carry today.

Energy poverty is present in every EU country, but it is especially acute in Central and Eastern Europe. Many buildings constructed during the socialist times lack proper insulation that results in homeowners spending more than 10% of their income on heating bills. Especially low-income households are affected, sometimes literally having to choose between heating and eating.