Columnists: Adrian Joyce, Renovate Europe Campaign Director
Published on: 25 Feb 2022
Sitting on our hands is no longer an option
The predicted invasion of Ukraine by Russia has occurred. There are dark days ahead and consequences for all Europeans. With his actions, President Putin has further jeopardised the energy security of the EU as too much of our primary energy is sourced from Russia, mostly passing through Ukraine. We must act now on several fronts, not least in our homes and workplaces by moving urgently to energy renovate them.
This escalation in the long-standing Russian crisis comes on top of multiple crises that the EU is coping with: the ongoing pandemic, inflation, and increased cost of living for all. Whilst efforts are being made to mitigate the negative effects of these crises, they are largely conceived as short-term relief measures and not as sustainable, long-term actions.
This increased energy insecurity puts the spotlight back on our vulnerability to high rates of energy imports. But, like the Russian actions, this was predictable and predicted.
In 2015, just a year after the first Russian invasion of Ukraine, the EU imported 53% of its energy needs and the Renovate Europe Campaign highlighted this dependence at the time (see our video here). It is sobering to realise that the situation has since degraded with the EU importing nearly 61% of its energy needs in 2019. This dependence on imports must end or our vulnerability will never end.
Buildings in the EU account for the largest share of final energy consumption, at a high of 40% of energy demand. This is largely due to the poor energy performance of the building stock, with more than 97% below the A-level grading.
The truly sustainable answer to tackle rising energy insecurity and protect consumers is to cut our energy demand through deep energy renovation. Sitting on our hands, as we have done since 2015 and before, is no longer an option.
Thanks to readily available technologies, it is possible, and affordable, to reduce the energy demand of the building stock in the EU by 80% by 2050, drastically reducing the amount of energy needed in each building (homes, offices, hospitals, public buildings etc.) to create comfortable and healthy indoor environments. This would also lead to a 32% cut in total energy use in the EU and a reduction of over 60% in gas imports.
It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the millions of leaky buildings that exist right across the EU. The multiple crises mentioned above mean that additional public funding is now on stream and available for Member States to use to implement their long-term renovation strategies and their national recovery and resilience plans. More resources are available through the multiannual financial framework and through cohesion funds.
All stakeholders must collectively take action to accelerate building energy renovation and significantly increase our energy security. The partners of the Renovate Europe Campaign have been awake to this need for over a decade, we trust that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will act to shake others our of their slumber and spur them to action.