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Renewable heat bodies welcome Commission's Renovation Wave but call for a holistic approach

Reacting to the European Commission's proposed Renovation Wave Strategy presented on October 14, 2020, Bioenergy Europe and Solar Heat Europe/ESTIF have both welcomed the overall tone of the initiative and its focus on increasing the share of renewables in the European heating and cooling sector. However, both bodies call for the deployment of coherent measures to ensure a faster phase-out from fossil fuels combined with further market uptake of renewable solutions.

On October 14, 2020, Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, and Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy, presented the EU Methane Strategy that was adopted by the Commission along with the Renovation Wave Strategy and State of the Energy Union report (graphic courtesy EC – Audiovisual Service).

On October 14, 2020, the European Commission (EC) presented its Renovation Wave strategy, a plan meant to retrofit more than 200 million existing buildings in Europe, while also generating economic growth and raising the well-being standards for its citizens

Buildings are responsible for about 40 percent of the EU’s energy consumption, with the largest share – 80 percent – coming from the residential sector for heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. Two-thirds of this energy is still produced using fossil fuels, making European buildings one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The renewable energy sector is already undertaking efforts to offer less carbon-intensive solutions. However, as Bioenergy Europe points out, this must be further promoted but, if rightly implemented, the proposal to introducing a requirement to use minimum levels of renewables in buildings represents a real opportunity.

Bioenergy Europe and Solar Energy Europe/ESTIF both agree that it is essential to focus on decarbonising residential heating and take decisive actions such as banning fossil fuels support, improving energy efficiency measures, and promote the switch to renewable heat solutions.

The Renovation Wave strategy comes in a very timely moment considering its potential for a green recovery. In this context, we are glad that the Commission is focusing on heating and cooling and planning to increase renewable heat share in buildings. An effective strategy must also include the modernisation of heating systems and promote the switch to renewables like solar thermal, said Irene di Padua, Policy Officer at Solar Heat Europe/ESTIF.

Pick up the pace

The EU wants to at least double the pace of renovation of buildings over the coming decade, increasing the average rate of renovation, from the current 1 percent to 2 percent per year by 2030.

The goal is to renovate a total of 35 million building units over the decade, a move that would benefit the environment and create as many as 160 000 green jobs.

Solar Heat Europe/ESTIF welcomes the Commission’s bid to increase the renovation rate and energy efficiency for buildings while reinforcing renewable heat contribution in the process.

The Renovation Wave of buildings, which includes insulation and change of heating equipment, implies an additional investment in the range of EUR 90 billion annually and it will be financed through EU’s economic recovery programme and different support instruments, including incentives for private investments.

Illustrating the commercial advances of household renewable energy possibilities – Austria-based boiler manufacturer Ökofen showcasing a wood pellet boiler that can be integrated with a solar thermal and/or with micro-combined heat and power (CHP) integrated with solar photovoltaic (PV) and/or battery storage.

According to Solar Heat Europe/ESTIF, there are over 10 million solar thermal systems currently operating in European households and businesses. The implementation of the Renovation Wave can lead to the doubling of the number of solar thermal systems in the next decade, helping to decarbonise the building sector and to reduce energy bills for millions of European citizens.

Additionally, the strategy mentions some key sectors as tourism and education, and this is also aligned with the solar thermal industry pledge.

The solar thermal sector will primarily focus on the supply of competitive solar heating and cooling solutions for priority sectors in Europe which were hit hard by the current emergency, such as health care, education, and tourism, as well as the heat supply for the industrial sector, said Irene di Padua.

Support measures including a price on carbon

The proposal to set higher emission reduction is a first step in the right direction, however, a stronger commitment to phase out fossil fuel is still required says Bioenergy Europe.

The Commission acknowledges that ‘fossil fuels will gradually disappear’ but timing is key to meet the Climate Target Plan 2030 and reach climate neutrality by 2050. Therefore, supporting measures to foster the modernisation of the heating stock, currently characterized by old and inefficient heating appliances, will be needed – “modern, clean, and efficient technologies are readily available but their market deployment must be reinforced” says Bioenergy Europe.

Equipping the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) with an effective and binding target for renewable heating will be key as will adequate training and financing to ensure modern bioenergy appliances or other renewable heat solutions including district heat are fully exploited.

State-of-the-art residential heating appliances on display at a European trade show for installers.

This must be accompanied by actions that put at the centre communities and consumers’ real needs with tailored information on the best solution available, financial support to replace old appliances, and most importantly enhance accessibility to renewable solutions.

Bioenergy Europe also welcomes the effort of the Commission to introduce a carbon price instrument to buildings. This should be compatible with other instruments pricing carbon at EU level and Member State level – national instruments including minimum price, tax, or market mechanisms.

We need to break the inertia effect. Incentivising buildings’ efficiency without clear signals to phase fossil fuels will not be sufficient. It is crucial to help the Member States to give a strong impulse to replace old fossil appliances with modern renewable technologies, said Jean-Marc Jossart, Secretary-General, Bioenergy Europe.

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