The most energy inefficient buildings could become unrentable or unsellable in the future to significantly stimulate the rate of deep renovation in all EU countries

Introduction

Buildings are a central part of our daily lives, and we spend a large part of our days in them – at home, at work, or during our spare time.

In its different forms – homes, work places, schools, hospitals, libraries or other public buildings – the built environment is, however, the single largest energy consumer in the EU. And one of the largest carbon dioxide emitters.

Collectively, buildings in the EU are responsible for 40% of our energy consumption and 36% of greenhouse gas emissions, which mainly stem from construction, usage, renovation and demolition.

Improving energy efficiency in buildings therefore has a key role to play in achieving the ambitious goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050, set out in the European Green Deal.

Reforming the EU building stock with the right policy and legislation

Today, roughly 75% of the EU building stock is energy inefficient. This means that a large part of the energy used goes to waste. Such energy loss can be minimized by improving existing buildings and striving for smart solutions and energy efficient materials when constructing new houses.

Renovating existing buildings could reduce the EU’s total energy consumption by 5-6% and lower carbon dioxide emissions by about 5%. Yet, on average, less than 1% of the national building stock is renovated each year. (Member State rates vary from 0.4% to 1.2%.) In order to meet our climate and energy objectives, the current rates of renovations should at least double.

The EU recently introduced new ambitious policies to help steer member states towards better energy efficiency in buildings. Knowing that cost is often the major hurdle to renovation, the new rules also ease access to financing for improving the building stock.

Romania’s energy efficiency legislature for buildings

In Romania, the National action plan for energy efficiency IV has been approved by the government in 2019. In the autumn of 2020, the Law regarding the energy performance of buildings has been updated in accordance to the EU 2018 directive on the matter.

A new obligation is introduced regarding new buildings or groups of buildings (residential, offices, hotel, commercial, etc.), namely that the Urbanism Certificate (CU) should also include a Feasibility study from a technical, economic and environmental standpoint for the use of high efficiency alternative systems.

In addition, in regards to major renovation works for existing buildings, the technical documentation must be accompanied by an Energy Audit Report.

By an Emergency Ordinance published at the end of October 2020, the Ministry of Economy, Energy and Business Environment is designated as the only governmental structure with attributions in representing Romania at international level regarding Romania’s energy efficiency policy.

At European level, the strategy was recently launched through the so-called Renovation Wave, which aims to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030.

All these objectives are subsumed to achieve climate neutrality at European level by 2050 by decoupling economic growth from the use of natural resources and achieving the goal of 0 net greenhouse gas emissions.

At the moment we are at the beginning of this strategy and expectations are that new and more harsh legislation, as well as additional obligations for building owners will be adopted at European level in the coming years.

Closing thoughts

Although at this time the issue of financing the renovation and increase of energy efficiency of buildings seems to be a huge obstacle, there are European programs that support investments in increasing energy efficiency.

In the near future the goal of saving the planet in the face of the most important existentialist crisis of humanity, which the European Green Deal clearly speaks of, will acquire a net importance in the face of any obstacles. On one side this can lead to a significant boost in financing investments to increase energy efficiency, while on the other side we could be looking at the prohibition of economic capitalization by effectively blocking sales or rental for buildings that are not energy efficient.

Those currently building or owning buildings should expect that, within a decade, certain buildings will not be able to be rented or sold to the extent that they are energy efficient. The Netherlands has already implemented new legislation in the field of office space leasing, according to which buildings with “C” level of energy efficiency will no longer be able to be rented starting with 2023.

The energy performance certificates of the buildings will be standardized at European level based on a much more detailed future legislation applicable identically on the territory of the Union.

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