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Building energy efficiency in European cities

April 23, 2013

I am just preparing to participate on behalf of the URBACT Program to the roundtable “Energy-efficient buildings – The EU’s number 1 priority” at the Energy Cities Annual conference in Växjö (Sweden). As a part of the preparation you always look for the weather forecast and google some images of the place you are going to travel to. So did I and here you can see a nice result of the search, which in fact is a testimonial of the local Linnaeus University (Linnaeus, the great botanist who studied the methodology to name all species, was born in Växjö).

My contribution to the roundtable will be focused on what cities can do to speed up the transition towards an energy efficient built environment and how they can best interact with the other levels of governance. As a starting point I will use the article “Retrofitting our way out of recession” published by Paul Ciniglio and myself last September on the URBACT Tribune 2012. Furthermore I will introduce the findings of the final paper written by Owen Lewis, Sadhbh Ní Hógáin and myself on the same topic. The article, which incorporates the outcomes of the workshop held at the URBACT Conference in Copenhagen last December, has already been edited, but is not yet available in the final version.

Hereafter the background information I received from Peter Schilken (Energy Cities) a kind of progress report of the European policy framework.

The roundtable session “Energy-efficient buildings – The EU’s number 1 priority” is organised in the framework of the Energy Efficiency Watch 2 (EEW2) project. The main objective of the initiative – when started in 2010 – was to facilitate the implementation of the Energy End-use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive [2006/32/EC] across the EU. Meanwhile the project provides lessons learnt for the implementation of the new Energy Efficiency Directive. The project is supported by the Intelligent Energy-Europe programme and is coordinated by EUFORES.


–          Member States are legally committed to the EU energy and climate (3×20%) objectives.

–          Through the Covenant of Mayors, local authorities have voluntarily committed to go beyond those objectives. By doing so, municipalities help their national governments meet their targets. In return, municipalities expect favourable national legislative, fiscal and incentive frameworks to do the job.

–          Today, these national frameworks are very different and there is no common strategy on how to reach the 3×20 objectives. Whilst some Member States have set up helpful frameworks, others do not encourage local action.

–          Member States have updated their National Energy Efficiency Action Plans (NEEAPs) to the European Commission in 2011. These NEEAPs have been screened by EEW2 scientific partners with the objective to highlight strengths and weaknesses of national energy efficiency policies, to identify policy gaps and to give policy recommendations (that will also be mentioned in the keynote speech of the welcome cocktail on Wednesday evening).

–          The European Commission published on 9 March 2011 its new Energy Efficiency Plan. Whilst the Parliament voted for binding energy efficiency objectives, the Member States were against!

–          The Energy Efficiency Directive 2012 (EED) was brought into force on 4 December 2012.

In its report on the Energy Roadmap 2050 (adopted in Plenary session on 14 March 2013), the European Parliament acknowledges that the building sector must be “a central element” of the EU’s long-term energy policy, and calls for a reduction in the energy consumption of the existing building stock “by 80% by 2050 compared to 2010 levels”.

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