Soaring energy prices highlight drafts in European buildings

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Hemp fiber insulation material is on display in the House of hemp showroom in central Moscow, Russia on March 12, 2021. Photo taken on March 12, 2021. REUTERS / Evgenia Novozhenina / File Photo

  • Renovation could cut EU household gas bills – industry study
  • Governments seek solutions to cushion future energy price spikes
  • Fossil fuels provide 75% of heating for buildings in the EU

BRUSSELS, Oct. 25 (Reuters) – As European governments scramble to protect households from spikes in energy prices, advocates say retrofitting draughty buildings could help lower household bills. consumers and countries’ dependence on fossil fuels.

Buildings produce more than a third of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions, with around 75% of their heating provided by fossil fuels.

To prevent the sector from thwarting the EU’s climate change targets, Brussels plans to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030, out of a total of around 250 million – a significant increase from 0.2% buildings in the EU currently being renovated every year to significantly reduce their energy consumption. use.

Achieving the EU target could reduce the annual heating bill of an average European household by 218 euros ($ 254), according to an analysis by consultancy firm Cambridge Econometrics, to be released on Monday, on the 2021 gas price base, which would roughly halve the average household amount spent on gas. heating.

Renovations such as better windows, roof insulation or renewable heat pumps are unlikely to be implemented quickly enough to save consumers money this winter.

But by 2030, meeting the goal of energy-saving in-depth renovations could also reduce the EU’s projected gas consumption by 43,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year, according to the study commissioned by the Rockwool insulation manufacturer.

“Done right, building renovations can literally isolate people from high energy prices,” said Jens Birgersson, CEO of Rockwool Group.

Gas prices in Europe have reached record highs this year, prompting governments to introduce tax breaks and subsidies to quickly reduce household heating bills.

The surge in prices has also triggered resistance from some governments to EU plans to impose CO2 costs on heating fuels – a policy which, if approved, would seek to incentivize much faster renovations to homes. buildings.

Some governments are already moving. Poland, Germany and France are among the countries earmarked billions of euros from their share of the EU’s COVID-19 stimulus fund for renovations.

“We are seeing a massive increase in public support,” said Andreas Graf, energy policy expert at think tank Agora Energiewende, although he added that it was not yet clear whether this additional money was coming in. vulnerable households without the means to invest in renovations.

Claire Roumet, director of Energy Cities, an association of local communities, said the biggest challenge was the lack of qualified staff to coordinate renovation projects on the ground.

“The massive money we invest in renovation programs never invests in these local coordinators,” she said, and urged governments to channel their “huge interest” in building renovations by providing this technical support.

“There is no reason not to do it,” said Roumet.

($ 1 = € 0.8598)

Reporting by Kate Abnett Editing by John Chalmers and Mark Potter

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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