Low energy buildings still have a limited market uptake, despite their economic and environmental advantages. At the 2014 MIPIM Innovation Forum the European Commission Directorates General for industry and entrepreneurship, energy and regional policy will discuss the EU's approach to overcome the sector’s challenges and unleash its full potential.
Increased investment in low energy buildings with high CO2 and energy cost saving potentials would give fresh impetus to the real estate and construction sectors that are crucial for the European economy. Construction generates almost 10% of the EU's GDP and provides 20 million jobs, mainly in micro and small enterprises. It also contributes to 50% of the capital formation in the EU. Improving the competitiveness of the construction economy can therefore help to increase general growth and create business opportunities.
Investment in construction has experienced a sustained and dramatic decline since the start of the economic crisis. To help its recovery, as well as ensure a positive role in the achievement of critical climate, environmental and energy-related objectives, in July 2012 the European Commission adopted the “Construction 2020” action plan.
Maximising the energy efficiency of buildings is the most cost effective way to reduce emissions, improve energy security and competitiveness, and make energy consumption more affordable for consumers, as well as create employment. But the economic potential of energy efficiency in buildings remains at a very large extent untapped, largely due to non-technical barriers. Energy efficiency therefore occupies a central role within the existing EU energy-climate policy framework.
Two pieces of EU legislation address energy efficient buildings
The Energy Performance in Buildings Directive takes a holistic approach, setting an obligation for EU countries to develop an integrated methodology to rate energy performances of buildings, and define minimum energy performance requirements for new buildings, for existing buildings that undergo major renovation and for retrofitted or replaced building element.
The Energy Efficiency Directive also targets buildings. It asks EU countries to create long term national strategies to improve their existing building stock, which to a very large extent will still be standing in 2050. An initial draft of these strategies must be published by EU countries by 30 April 2014.
Funding under Horizon 2020
By coupling research and innovation, the funding opportunities that will be generated by the EU's Horizon 2020 programme will also help to achieve energy efficiency. Horizon 2020 emphasises the use of best in class scientific research and the use of industrial leadership, in order to tackle the most relevant societal challenges. Its goal is to ensure that Europe produces world-class science, removes barriers to innovation and makes it easier for the public and private sectors to work together in delivering innovation.
A number of European Commission initiatives aim to mobilise collective intelligence to boost energy efficiency in building. For example, the BUILD UP web portal aims to reap the benefits of Europe's collective intelligence on energy reduction in buildings. It brings together new practitioners and professional associations while motivating them to exchange best working practices and knowledge and to transfer tools and resources. This initiative helps deliver the new skills that are needed in the construction sector, including those that work towards meeting the target for nearly zero-energy buildings (NZEB).
Access to finance
Access to finance remains another important challenge to energy efficiency. From 2014 to 2020, the amounts available from the EU for energy efficiency and renewable energy sources will be effectively doubled, reaching €23 billion. It is estimated that in order to reach the 2020 target annual investments totalling around €100 billion are necessary. EU finance provides an opportunity to stimulate significant improvement of the overall energy performance of EU building stock, by increasing the renovation depth towards nearly zero-energy building level and by increasing the rate of energy efficient renovation.
To successfully meet future challenges in construction - the globalization of markets, economic and employment growth, energy and climate change, the protection of the environment, demographic changes, social cohesion, safety and health of citizens - the European Commission relies on the support of its member countries and, of course, the relevant construction industries.