European leaders must make energy efficiency the foundation stone of a future-proof energy-secure Europe.
Soaring inflation, devastating energy prices and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — 2022 became the year that Europe was forced to recalibrate its approach to energy security.
Quentin Galland, Knauf Insulation’s Group Public & Regulatory Affairs Director, says: “The European Union cannot be dependent on countries that threaten its security, and it is essential that the EU’s reliance on fossil fuels ends.
“Energy efficiency must be the bedrock of a long-term strategy that reinforces Europe’s energy security, and this has to start with making buildings energy efficient. Europe’s buildings account for 36% of emissions and 40% of energy use.”
The last eight years have been the hottest years ever recorded by NASA with a 2022 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report calling for the halving of emissions by 2030 to avoid an environmental catastrophe.
IPCC’s Working Group Co-Chair Jim Skea says: “We see examples of zero energy or zero-carbon buildings in almost all climates. Action in this decade is critical to capture the mitigation potential of buildings.”
Risk of increasing energy poverty
In 2020, about 36 million Europeans were unable to keep their homes adequately warm.
Since then, prices have soared, winter energy supply concerns are constant and extreme heat and cold weather has highlighted the inadequacies of poorly maintained properties.
As a result, energy poverty levels are at high risk of sharp increases across Europe and beyond.
Knauf Insulation’s public affairs team has always campaigned for energy efficient buildings — now the urgency is greater than ever.
There has to be a focus on these key areas:
DELIVERING MAJOR ENERGY REDUCTIONS
In 2021, the EU imported 155 billion cubic metres of fossil gas from Russia — 45% of the EU’s total gas imports. In the light of the Ukraine crisis, the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan was launched to end the EU’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
With support from Knauf Insulation, research by the Building Performance Institute Europe (BPIE) was commissioned to demonstrate how building energy efficiency must be put at the heart of Europe’s energy security.
Focusing on eight European countries the research found space heating accounted for between 15.5% and 20.3% of energy demand with an EU average of 16.8%.
Katarzyna Wardal-Szmit, our EU Public Affairs Manager, says: “The report found that simply by insulating the roofs and walls of buildings in each country significant energy savings could be achieved.
“The research showed that renovations would deliver a reduction of 44% of natural gas use with Italy, Slovakia and Romania seeing the highest savings of 49%, 53% and 56% respectively. Clearly, this is a straightforward actionable step forward to improve Europe’s energy security.”
SCALING UP MASS RENOVATION
The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) proposes minimum energy performance (MEPS) for the worse performing buildings in Europe — an estimated 40 million which are rated ‘G’ or ‘F’ — and mandates the renovation of public and commercial buildings to ‘E’ standard by 2030 and the renovation of apartments and houses to ‘E’ by 2033.
However, transforming around 40 million buildings in a decade is a massive task that demands a focus on quality work that really delivers the energy saving and decarbonisation benefits of renovation.
Renovation is time-consuming, complex, often a once-in-a-lifetime process, and homeowners need a range of specialist support ranging from contractors and installers to specific products and quality assurance that the work has been carried out properly.
The solution? Public and commercial one-stop-shops that can provide all the technical assistance and support required to achieve quality deep renovation in one place. One-stop-shops have proved to be successful in Hungary, Ireland, Latvia and Poland with our own KES carrying out one-stop mass renovations in Belgium and the UK.
CALLING FOR REGULATION CLARITY
Proposals designed to harmonise standards for construction products are being discussed at European Union level.
Under the European Commission’s Construction Products Regulation (CPR) proposals, manufacturers will have to provide information about the sustainability of their products — such as designing products in a way that reuse or recycling is facilitated, respecting minimum recycled content obligations or giving preference to recyclable materials.
Quentin Galland, Knauf Insulation’s Group Public & Regulatory Affairs Director, says: “The new CPR is a major step forward to guide construction product manufacturers in the design and placement of sustainable products on the market. So, it is essential that clear rules are agreed upon to ensure a level playing field throughout Europe between operators.”
TACKLING THE CHALLENGE OF GRID CAPACITY
A mass transition to renewables from fossil fuels is a challenge in terms of providing enough electricity in a decarbonised grid during peak demand.
For example, REPowerEU aims to roll-out 30 million heat pumps across the EU to save 35 billion cubic metres in gas consumed by heaters in buildings.
However, analysis by Knauf Energy Solutions (KES) revealed how peak demand periods will create huge electricity grid challenges.
Using figures from Germany, KES concluded that while electricity demand for electric heating would increase by 356 Terawatt-hour/year, the additional generation capacity to deliver this demand due to winter peaks would be almost five times more.
Barry Lynham, Managing Director of Knauf Energy Solutions, says: “As we decarbonise heating and electricity generation, energy efficiency in homes is no longer about energy savings for residents, it is about reducing the overall energy system costs for peak generation capacity.
"The deployment of heat pumps is key, but Europe needs to ensure that its building stock is heat pump ready and that starts with proper insulation and effective renovation.
“Energy efficiency is not any longer just about saving energy — it now plays an essential role in saving grid capacity.”
DELIVERING REAL PERFORMANCE
The challenge of any energy efficient renovation project is whether it delivers the energy savings that have been promised.
New digital technology, pioneering renovation processes and quality solutions created by KES can now demonstrate energy savings delivered in real time — before and after a renovation has taken place.
This technology allows the metering of real energy performance and the benchmarking of improvements as a result of the renovation, which in turn delivers trust by showing proven metered savings.
To maximise the deployment of this technology to improve all renovations, our public affairs teams are campaigning to develop pay-for-performance schemes — to reward renovation savings — and the promotion of independently certified digital energy efficiency meters in the revision of the Electricity Market Design and Energy Performance of Buildings Directives.
Rather than only relying on the theoretical assessments of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), KES and our public affairs teams are campaigning to offer Member States the option to use digital energy efficiency meters to assess the energy performance of buildings within EPCs or as an alternative to an EPC.
In addition, our teams are examining mechanisms to reward energy efficiency for saving grid capacity.
GREENING URBAN AREAS
Green roofs and walls absorb emissions, help buildings save energy and encourage biodiversity, that is why our public affairs teams are continuing to campaign for widespread green infrastructure at European Commission and national level.
Jure Šumi, Knauf Insulation’s Green Solutions’ Advocacy Lead as well as Europe’s World Green Infrastructure Network spokesman, says: “The revision of the EPBD should mandate the installation of green roofs on building renovation projects, while the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive should be revised to include the widespread installation of green roofs to retain storm water and prevent sewage system floods.”
Furthermore, the proposed Nature Restoration Law (NRL) announced by the European Commission in June 2022, calls for “developing urban green spaces and installing green roofs and walls” among other measures to ensure no net loss of green urban spaces by 2030 and a 5% increase by 2050.
“We want to see clear guidance on how to implement these areas,” says Jure.
In addition to campaigning for more green roofs, Jure has also been contributing expertise to the Commission’s New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative which is designed to reimagine future urban environments with a focus on enhancing communities.
In 2022 he was a guest speaker at the European Commission’s NEB festival where he highlighted the importance of green walls and roofs. “They may increase building investment by between 1% and 3%, in a good sized development, but the benefit they bring to the environment and residents is priceless.”
Photo in the header: Our Mineral Wool insulation solutions FKD-S Thermal, NaturBoard Venti, Smart Roof, and Akustik Roll were installed in a kindergarten in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to ensure high standards of energy efficiency, acoustic protection and fire safety. Photo by Žare Modlic
This single family house in Slovenia served as one of the pilot cases for DRIVE 0 project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 841850. Knauf Insulation provided expertise on the deep retrofit using its various Mineral Wool solutions for facade and ceilings insulation (FKD N Thermal, CLT C1 Thermal and Supafil Timber Frame).
Find out more about DRIVE 0 project at DRIVE0.EU