Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
It’s great to be speaking with you today.
And I’m very happy not to be the first one to speak today! Because listening to the experiences of the tenants in Berlin is extremely important for what we are discussing this afternoon.
We say that ‘home is where the heart is’.
But when we speak about the Green Deal, we talk about:
- A decarbonised economy,
- a climate neutral Europe by 2050,
- and a reduction of 55% of emissions by 2030.
These goals are incredibly important for Europe. But we need to realise that there are real people behind these numbers. So let me bring you through what supporting people means in real terms when it comes to renovation.
First, supporting people looks like understanding the challenges they face. And that extends to energy poverty.
Energy poverty is very complex issue. Many factors come into play, including low income, high expenditure on energy, and poor energy efficiency.
But in the end, it results in one of the most serious societal issues. And it has detrimental long-term effects on individuals, the economy and the planet.
Right now, 1 in 7 EU citizens live in places where the quality is not of a high enough standard. That could mean leaking rooves, damp walls or rotting window frames or floors.
I’ll admit that I am shocked by such high figures in this day and age.
The situation is not good enough. And we can’t waste any time. We need to find the answers to two questions as soon as possible:
- Why is this happening?
- And how can we fix it?
Right now, the EU legal framework is looking into the first of those questions. One of the basic principles of the Renovation Wave is to protect the right of everyone to have affordable, liveable, accessible and healthy housing. We must ensure that energy-performing and sustainable buildings are the new normal. And for example, the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive asks Member States to outline their actions to combat it.
To dig deeper, the Commission issued dedicated energy poverty recommendations last autumn to help assess national and regional energy poverty.
Low-income households may be forced to live in cheaper buildings. But what they save on lower rent or capital costs, they risk sacrificing with their health and monthly energy bills in low-performing housing, locking them deeper into energy poverty. And, while they are stuck, our digital and green transitions cannot go ahead full speed.
Europe needs to be an example of a successful transition that supports the uptake of renovation solutions by vulnerable populations. This must happen taking full advantage of the Union funding programmes and citizen engagement.
The municipalities, civil society and private sector entities are best placed to use local renewable energy resources and to reduce energy bills. This is why the Renovation Wave strategy calls upon a neighbourhood approach to empower the residents, to tackle energy poverty collectively.
Together we can build back better and more sustainably, starting with the buildings that are in the worst condition.
Second, supporting people means empowering them. I think that knowledge is power. So, we are upping the level of data and awareness of energy consumption to battle energy poverty.
That’s why today we are going to hear about some inspiring cases where we can see the transformative power of what it means to have information on the energy profile of buildings as well as the benefits of renovation.
These cases are leading by example. But they are also the exception that proves the rule. So the Commission is working to provide legal certainty, one-stop shops and multiple incentives to improve our level of renovation data.
Energy Performance Certificates are a good example. They are a map to help us locate the worst performing buildings. So, I will be looking into removing barriers and setting clear targets and standards for certificates and minimum energy performance.
Another way we support people is by paving the way for renovation. We want to create the path of least resistance to renovation our building stock. And that path is paved with funding supports.
In the next few years we are going to see funds from multiple sources pouring into building renovation. But it’s not all about volume. We need to make sure that these funds:
- flow more freely,
- are used more effectively,
- ..and contribute to a just transition.
To get there, we have made a number of instruments available at EU level:
- The Recovery and Resilience Facility,
- the European Structural and Investment Funds,
- and the European Fund for Strategic Investment.
And we are seeing complementarity between these funds and similar mechanisms and investment platforms at the national level.
All of this funding in forms of grants, loans and guarantees need to be deployed quickly and effectively. That’s why there is specific funding for project development assistance.
For instance, Cohesion policy funds under REACT-EU and technical assistance under the ELENA facility are there to support regional and local authorities in designing and implementing their plans for renovations.
Finally, we will support people by recognising that one home is just part of a broader community.
Energy communities can ensure a local, fair and collective approach to renovations.
We are seeing more and more housing cooperatives since the Clean Energy Package was released. And that’s an excellent trend to see. It’s our hope that our policies will provide affordable clean energy through renewable energy production cooperatives and demand aggregation.
Overall, this push to working together will be key. At every scale.
This may mean agreeing among inhabitants in a building.
Or it might mean creating a decarbonisation plan for an entire neighbourhood.
It could even mean securing long-term investment into buildings for a whole region.
The most important thing is that we recognise that homes form part of a broader community.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have a long way to go. The rate of renovation in Europe needs to more than double, and the quality must improve.
There are people behind our policies. So we will design them in a way that doesn’t just improve our numbers on a page, but transforms the way of life for families across the EU.
This is where I will end my remarks. And I wish you an excellent discussion for the rest of the summit.
Thank you for listening.