Renovation wave

A refurbished and improved building stock in the EU will help pave the way for a decarbonised and clean energy system, as the building sector is one of the largest energy consumers in Europe and is responsible for more than one third of the EU's emissions. But only 1% of buildings undergo energy efficient renovation every year, so effective action is crucial to making Europe climate-neutral by 2050. Currently, roughly 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient, yet almost 85-95% of today’s buildings will still be in use in 2050.

Renovation of both public and private buildings is an essential measure in this context, and has been singled out in the European Green Deal as a key initiative to drive energy efficiency in the sector and deliver on objectives. 

Given the labour-intensive nature of the building sector, which is largely dominated by local businesses, renovations of buildings also plays a crucial role in the European recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic. To kick-start the recovery, the Commission has identified doubling the renovation rate in its dedicated recovery plan.

A renovation wave for Europe

To pursue this ambition of energy gains and economic growth, the Commission published on 14 October 2020 a new strategy to boost renovation called "A Renovation Wave for Europe – Greening our buildings, creating jobs, improving lives" (COM(2020)662). It aims to double annual energy renovation rates in the next ten years. These renovations will enhance the quality of life for people living in and using the buildings, reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions, and create up to 160,000 additional green jobs in the construction sector.

With nearly 34 million Europeans unable to afford keeping their home adequately heated, renovation is also an important response to energy poverty. It can address the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people while reducing their energy bills, as outlined in the Commission Recommendation on Energy Poverty ((EU) 2020/1563), which was published as part of the Renovation wave strategy.

In parallel to the strategy, the Commission adopted new rules for the smart readiness of buildings (C(2020)6929-6930). Specifically, the smart readiness indicator aims to promote digitally friendly renovations, integrate renewable energy and enable measurements of actual energy consumption.

The Commission launched, at the same time as the Renovation wave strategy, the initiative on the New European Bauhaus. The initiative is both a network and a contact point at the crossroads between culture, social inclusion, science and technology. The New European Bauhaus unfolds in 3 phases: Co-design, Delivery and Dissemination. The design phase was launched on 18 January 2021 and will lead to the opening of calls for proposals later in 2021 to bring New European Bauhaus ideas to life in at least 5 places in EU countries, through the use of EU funds at national and regional level.

The renovation wave initiative will build on measures agreed under the Clean energy for all Europeans package, notably the requirement for each EU country to publish a long-term building renovation strategy (LTRS), other aspects of the amending Directive on the Energy Performance of Buildings ((EU) 2018/844), and building-related aspects of each EU country's national energy and climate plans (NECP).

Process and next steps

  • As a preparatory step, the Commission published a roadmap on the initiative in May 2020, with a 4-week period for public feedback.
  • On 11 June, the Commission launched a 4-week public consultation to feed into the Commission preparation of this initiative. The contributions from each of the 187 respondents are summarised in a synthesis report.
  • On 14 October 2020, the Commission published a press release – together with questions and answers – on the Renovation wave strategy and its accompanying staff working documents
  • The Communication will be discussed by the Council, the European Parliament, other EU institutions, civil society and stakeholders with a view to contributing to the necessary actions. The discussions will cover concrete legislative and non-legislative measures and enabling tools, financing and non-financing aspects, and take into account different levels of action at EU, national and local or regional level, to make faster and deeper renovation

EU building projects

The Commission supports many projects on building renovation, as well as research and innovation in the area, through the Horizon programmes. For example

  • the BUILD UP initiative, which provides a web portal that focus on collective intelligence on energy reduction in buildings for all relevant audiences
  • the BUILD UP Skills initiative working to increase the number of qualified building professionals across Europe to deliver building renovations, which offer high-energy performance, as well as new, nearly zero-energy buildings
  • the 4RinEU project, which aims to provide new tools and strategies to encourage large scale renovation of existing buildings and fostering the use of renewable energies (see article about the project “Home improvements for the planet” in six languages).

For more EU funded energy efficiency projects, consult the Horizon 2020 energy efficiency data hub.  


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