Energy efficiency is a key priority for the EU. Implementing an ambitious energy efficiency policy will help reduce a set of emissions by optimising the supply needs for heating and cooling buildings. Increased energy efficiency will also reduce costs for consumers. How can high-performing plastic insulation help the EU achieve its ambitious energy efficiency goal?
In recent years, energy efficiency has been hailed as “Europe’s first fuel”. The root of this claim is that heating and cooling buildings accounts for 40% of the EU’s final energy usage, and 36% of EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are building-related.
Reducing the amount of energy we use while retaining the comfort of our homes, not only cuts our energy bills and reduces our carbon footprint, but would also make a positive contribution to the European jobs and growth agenda.
Since 2015, the EU has been developing an ambitious Energy Union, in which energy efficiency has been given a central role. Plastic insulation materials contribute to the realisation of this project.
During our roundtable event ‘Fire safety: setting the scene for fire safe European buildings’ organised in the European Parliament on 28 November 2018, our Executive Chair, Quentin de Hults, presented the importance of a holistic approach to fire safety taking into account entire design of buildings, including installations and organisations. He also joined DG Grow in highlighting the responsibility of Member States to ensure compliance of construction works with their national fire safety regulations and called the whole value chain to work on ensuring quality and compliance.
Heating and Cooling
According the European Commission’s Heating and Cooling Strategy, heating and cooling is the EU’s biggest energy sector, comprising of 50% of the EU’s final energy consumption – 75% of which is supplied by fossil fuels, either in final delivered energy or in primary supplies to centralised power plants.
The volatility of fossil fuel prices combined with the harmful effects of emissions to the environment represent major societal challenges. This includes the negative impact on the climate generated by their combustion, which also applies to any bio-resources.
These are all considerations for end-users and decision-makers. When “clean” energy is supplied, consumers still face significant heating and cooling bills.
Affordable housing and fuel poverty
Energy efficiency is not just about reducing GHG and harmful emissions, it is also about reducing running costs for consumers. While many Europeans can afford to renovate their homes, for those living in fuel poverty – people who have difficulty paying their energy bills – providing the means to renovate their homes efficiently is critical.
According to the Commission, more than 50 million Europeans cannot afford to heat their homes in winter, and the same number are either behind on their electricity and gas bills, or live in damp and leaky homes. This is not just inconvenient, it can have fatal consequences.
Insulating walls, roofs, ceilings and floors is the most cost-effective way to increase energy efficiency of buildings and thereby reduce GHG emissions.
Climate Solutions - A cost effective analysis
Under the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) from 2018 (to be issued before the institutional summer break, with the unofficial version available here), Member States will have to “establish renovation strategies to reach a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050”.
Furthermore, the legislation emphasises the paramount importance of addressing the building envelope. Without high-performing insulation products such as plastic insulation foams, reaching this 2050 objective – derived from COP21 – will be impossible.
Reducing our energy usage does not need to be at the expense of other challenges, notably environmental and health issues. A life-cycle approach shows that plastic insulation materials exhibit superior environmental performance over competing alternatives.
They also positively contribute to the indoor air quality of buildings as shown by their excellent ratings in this area. Learn more about the sustainability credentials of plastic construction materials.
If Europe is to achieve its climate and energy goals, cutting our energy use is essential. Buildings lie at the heart of this, and insulation is a universally accepted solution. High-performing and sustainable materials can not only help save the planet, but also reduce costs and improve comfort for consumers.