How to stay warm and save energy: Insulation opportunities in European homes

This study shows that improving the insulation of all existing residential buildings in the EU would significantly contribute to securing the bloc’s energy independence, and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Full renovation of EU residential buildings would result in a 44% reduction of energy demand for heating in buildings, or 777 TWh savings.

To combat the energy crisis and secure EU energy independence, reducing energy demand is urgent

Since Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in early 2022, the energy crisis has only become more urgent. The question of the EU’s energy security and dependency from fuels import has been on the front of political and social debates. Paired with sky-rocketing energy prices and inflation, no one is immune to the economic and social changes made evident by this crisis. As a result, the EU debate shifted towards secure and affordable energy supply, sometimes even at the cost of reduced or slowed down climate action. A prosperous EU will require reduced use of fossil fuels and a diversified energy supply where increased renewable energy supply is matched by reduced demand.

Against this backdrop, this study shows how improving energy performance of the building envelope in existing residential buildings would substantially lower fossil fuel consumption, increase energy security and enable effective growth of renewable heat.

The study has two main components:

  1. Estimation of energy and fossil fuel savings through better insulation of residential buildings in 27 Member States (MS), resulting in potential energy savings of 777 TWh
  2. Annual projection of energy savings in EU residential buildings, considering 0.1% annual demolition rate until 2050, resulting in 750 TWh savings.

If all existing residential buildings in the EU were renovated, 777 TWh, or 44% of final energy used for residential space heating in 2020 could be saved

If all existing residential buildings in the EU were renovated, 44% of final energy used for residential space heating in 2020 could be saved. Investing in building renovation can considerably reduce the use of fossil fuels for heating in buildings, potentially reaching 46% in gas savings, 44% in heating oil savings and 48% in coal savings and can therefore contribute to addressing Europe’s climate ambitions and energy security concerns.

To fully benefit from the savings potential (777 TWh), the entire residential building stock must therefore be renovated by 2050. This means the current renovation rate of 1% must be at least doubled by 2030, reach 3% by 2035, and 4% by 2040. 

The EPBD recast must define deep renovation as the standard

The final negotiations of the EPBD in the coming months present an opportunity opportunity that Europe cannot afford to miss. The EPBD should define deep renovation as the standard and agree renovation requirements which deliver on this standard, are fair and backed by attractive financial support for all who need it.

The EPBD recast should should also require that financial programmes and advisory services prioritise projects achieving deep renovations. Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) should be designed on a differentiated basis according to ownership structure, and focus on worst-performing buildings across all segments first. Even in a step-by-step approach, all renovations and especially the first step should pull the building out of the category of worst-performing buildings. Public funds including emergency relief, recovery funds and subsidy schemes should all be designed towards supporting deep renovations of buildings, fully phasing out fossil fuels.

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