It was in 1970 when the Beatles released The Long and Winding Road. With the onslaught of the first major oil crisis only four years later, it could be the anthem for energy policy ever since.
The beginning of the road was a push to start with more insulation in our buildings in order to improve their energy performance.
It wound through decades until Europe’s 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive was approved. A strategy based on deep renovations was what many had considered the best destination. But Parliament’s rapporteur at the time could not get consensus for such an initiative. Still, that goal was seen as imminent (well, by the optimists).
The BPIE’s 2011 “Microscope” study provided some ammunition to develop a renovation strategy. The 2012 Energy Efficiency Directive required a programme to launch renovation of central government buildings to a high standard – sending the message that government was setting an example for building renovation to us all. That Directive also required member states to prepare renovation strategies (although not to implement them). The Directive set mandatory annual energy savings targets. But, from all indications, the mandatory and allowed alternative measures that have been implemented are not producing significant renovations.
By 2016, the Commission’s clean energy package, which is now wending its through the approval process by Council and Parliament, still does not propose a renovation strategy. It includes a non-legislative initiative for smart financing for smart buildings – laudable but limited. There is no requirement for a renovation strategy. This is unfortunate, especially in view of the fact that the clean energy package was designed to help the EU achieve its obligations under the Paris climate agreement. It seems the EU will meet its obligations, but without the benefit of improved energy efficiency in buildings.
For years, we have known that improved energy efficiency is amongst the cheapest ways of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. All the low carbon roadmaps showed the need to renovate our entire building stock before 2050 if we were going to achieve our low carbon objectives.
But where is the proposal that delivers buildings renovation? I don’t see many clamouring for a real transformational programme that tackles our buildings. We talk about smart buildings and the smart appliances within them; we consider some incremental changes to energy performance certificates. We seem to only be addressing the fringes of the problem and not the problem head on.
My granddaughter has just turned nine and her sister will soon be 11. Every day they learn at school about glaciers melting, monster storms, flooding and famines. They are linking up problems and solutions. What am I to tell them, when one of the most obvious solutions to address climate change is being sidelined in European energy policy?
Clearly the Commission does not want to open up more Articles for revision — a policy more reminiscent of La-La Land. But we need to get to the end of The Long and Winding Road. I would rather sing another Beatle’s song: In My Life. But it seems I will have a while to learn it.