As former US President Barack Obama once said: “insulation is sexy”. After all, what’s sexier than saving the planet? Improving energy efficiency (including through better thermal insulation in our buildings) is one way to put Europe on a more sustainable path.

Greater energy efficiency won’t be enough on its own (it will need to be coupled with investment in renewable energy and an overall reduction in the rate of consumption of natural resources), but it is nevertheless part of the plan to keep greenhouse gas emissions under control as a way to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Improving insulation across the continent is a key part of the European Green Deal. Partly, this is about ensuring tough insulation standards are adhered to when new buildings are constructed. However, it will also involve retrofitting existing buildings in a so-called “renovation wave”.

Over 35% of the existing building stock in Europe is over 50-years-old, and many of the buildings constructed before 1945 are largely uninsulated. The European Commission estimates these historic buildings could reduce their energy consumption by 15-20% with proper insulation. Not bad, considering that Europe’s buildings are responsible for roughly 40% of the EU’s energy consumption and 36% of its CO2 emissions.

Who will pay for this ‘renovation wave’? In the United Kingdom, the Labour Party campaigned during the 2019 General Election under a “Warm Homes For All” policy, which would have seen the lowest-income households receive insulation for free, while everyone else would be eligible to apply for an interest free loan to carry out the renovations. The scheme received criticism for being too optimistic in terms of timeframes and logistics, and Labour, of course, lost the election.

What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Shaun, who would like to see new, tougher EU regulations requiring all new buildings in the EU be constructed with high levels of insulation as standard. Is he right?

To get a response, we also put Shaun’s comment to Paula Pinho from the European Commission, where she is Acting Director at Directorate A Energy Policy. What would she say?

For another perspective, we also spoke to Erkki Maillard, Senior Vice-President for European and International Affairs at the Électricité de France (EDF) Group, a French electric utility company and one of the largest producers of electricity in the world. How would he respond to Shaun’s comment?

Next up, we had a comment from Rémi, who does not see a market-based solution to improving the rate of home insulation in Europe. Is it up to governments to step in and invest in retrofitting existing homes? Or is this a job for the private sector?

How would Paula Pinho from the European Commission respond?

This is a very timely question because, in the framework of the ‘Green Deal’ which was announced by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, this was one of the areas which has been identified as a key area. We call it the ‘renovation wave’; we need to really put in place the conditions for the renovation of existing buildings to take place across Europe.

We have already spoken about new buildings and the standards that they need to comply with, but we also need to tackle existing buildings. There the Commission is working on bringing together all the actors who can play a role in the renovation and insulation of houses: bringing together possible investors, the private sector, industry, the construction sector, the association of municipalities, the association of condominia, to really see how we can best go about the renovation of existing houses and apartment buildings.

We do know that this needs to result from a combination of efforts, from lessons learned throughout Europe on how to best go about it. And this is precisely what we are now putting together, and we are preparing a communication on this – very much learning from existing practice – in the course of this year.

Should governments retrofit all houses with better insulation for free? Does the EU need tougher regulations so all new houses are well-insulated? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: BigStock – (c) ungvar

12 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    Yes. Something similar is happening in Bulgaria.

  2. avatar

    For free. Translation: raise some hidden tax so indirectly imposing it and making u pay for it.

  3. avatar

    There’s no free meals. Someone needs to pay

  4. avatar

    Just do it with new housing, and cut elsewhere, and promote smart energy use, promote public transportation, trains, trams, bike paths, pedestrian areas, home/office work, online conferences, etc.

  5. avatar

    I prefer to close the tax havens offshore zones.

  6. avatar

    For free??? Since when things are for free?? Money doesn’t fall from the sky, so it comes from all the ones that work and pay taxes.
    It shouldn’t be for free, it should depend on the income of each person, some will need more than others.

    • avatar

      Why people that worked to have more studies, to create innovative things, put their money at risk, and now they earn more, they have to pay more taxes? If we go together for dinner at a restaurant, either each pays what we eat or we split the bill on half. You are not requesting the IRS declaration of everyone to say, who earns more pays more.

    • avatar

      true, but an evolved society has the moral duty to help its disadvantaged citizens, that’s why who earns more pays more. It may seem unfair, but not all have the same chance of a decent feeding while growing up, a decent environment, a decent education, without them their chances of a proper job and proper earnings are almost none.
      That’s why my opinion on this subject is that it shouldn’t be free for everyone but only for those in disadvantage. Always try to place yourself in somebody else skin, what if it was your case? Wouldn’t you appreciate a little help?? Could you live in peace knowing there are kids or elders freezing because they can’t afford to isolate their space? Let’s be a little less egoist and a little bit more empathetic.

    • avatar

      I believe we should pay the same. Everybody. No matter how much you earn you should always pay the same percentage. At most you have 2 flat rates. More than that is robbery. I studied for almost 20 years, then 20 years working hard so I have the knowledge I have now. Why should I pay more than people who gave up school after 4, 6 or even 12 years and now they only get jobs paying minimum wage? I had the same opportunities but they didn’t wanted to study. For every action there’s a consequence.

  7. avatar

    ith all due respect, that is just crazy talk, yes it’s a good idea, but no government could afford this huge budget, not even KSA , let’s say would be more like it if the government encourage the house owner to develop their houses with tangible beneficial encouragement such as taking 25% of the cost by hiring workers from their labor, or she could provide materials for you but still you have to hire to do it yourself if you able to
    Something like that, but totally nit completely for free

  8. avatar

    Maybe governments should stop meddling so much in people’s lives, lower the taxes and let people insulate their houses however and whenever they like?

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