Energy efficiency and renovation programs in the building sector are crucial to achieving the 2050 climate neutrality target envisaged by the European Commission. This topic was discussed during a stakeholder session during the European Macro-Regions Week 2022
The third edition of the EU macro-regional strategies week (MRS WEEK IN THE EU) took place last spring. It aimed to promote coordination and the exchange of good practices between the 4 macro-regional strategies (EUSBSR, EUSDR, EUSAIR, EERA) and to promote dialogue between different stakeholders, including European institutions, civil society organisations, academics and citizens.
Under the motto “engage, empower and evolve”, public meetings took place over five days (March 7-11), focusing on three main themes: youth, social innovation and the green agenda.
For the first time, the program included special sessions where stakeholders could share their experiences and examples of good practices related to the three themes mentioned above. Among these, the session “Fostering the wave of renovation in the Danubian and Adriatic-Ionian macro-regions”, organized at the initiative of the Danubian macro-region (EUSDR) and the Danube Strategy Point (DSP), was devoted to the theme of climate neutrality, with a focus on building renovation programs for energy efficiency.
Croatia and Slovakia: sharing experiences between macro-regions
During the session, concrete examples of national energy efficiency programs in the building sector in Slovakia and Croatia, members of EUDR and EUSAIR respectively, were presented with the aim of sharing experiences and good practice.
“The building sector is crucial when it comes to energy consumption and energy efficiency,” stressed Vesna Bukarica of the Croatian Energy Institute. “In recent years, energy consumption in Croatia has steadily increased, with more than 40% of final consumption being absorbed by this sector.”
The new long-term energy efficiency strategy adopted by the Croatian government in 2020, which aims to increase the rate of renovation of buildings nationwide, plans to support projects that can generate energy savings of around 50 %.
From a political point of view, the main objective is to obtain adequate financing: “In order to achieve the objectives of the national strategy and the objectives of climate neutrality by 2050, in accordance with the Fit for 55 package of the European Commission, significant investments are needed to encourage the renovation of buildings in terms of sustainable energy consumption,” Bukarica stressed.
To do this, public investment is essential: “At European level, the most important financial mechanisms are the Recovery and Resilience Plan and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), while at national level the projects will be financed mainly through the Energy Efficiency Fund set up by the Croatian government in 2003”.
“Without funding, it is not possible to talk about energy renovation; the recovery and resilience plan and the structural funds will also be of key importance for Slovakia”, added Jan Magyar, project manager at the Slovak Innovation and Energy Agency (SIEA). , who also pointed out that besides funding, another element necessary for the implementation of the programs is the presence of qualified and highly qualified personnel: “SIEA devotes part of its work program to the training of specialists through an online platform for sharing information, strategies and methods useful for the implementation of renovation and energy efficiency measures”.
For energy renovation programs to achieve their objectives, it is also important that citizens are not only made aware of the issue, but also and above all informed about the programs themselves. “This is why we have set up, with European funds, the Live by energy project, the main objective of which is to increase the level of knowledge and awareness of the population on energy efficiency and the use renewable energy sources by providing free advice to the public sector, families and young people,” explained Magyar.
Hope and Good Practices from Ukraine
Not all countries participating in macro-regional strategies are EU Member States. EUSAIR, for example, is the only macro-regional strategy that involves more non-EU countries from South East Europe than member countries.
The European strategy for the Danubian macro-region involves not only Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, but also Moldova and Ukraine, two countries included in the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme. Presenting research carried out on behalf of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic on the energy performance of the building sector in the countries of the Danube region, Jiri Karasek, consultant of the Prague Center for Energy Efficiency (SEVEn), acknowledged that “the non-member countries offer good practices which can also be a source of inspiration and a model for EU members”.
According to the study, Ukraine has achieved one of the highest levels of reduction in energy consumption among the countries of the Danube region. This was confirmed by Alex Bycool, an energy efficiency expert from the Ukrainian Ministry of Development, who reports directly from the country: “Talking about energy efficiency is clearly not our priority. I can’t deal with energy issues now, but I have to work to provide humanitarian aid to my people. However, being here with you today is like stepping back to a past life, and I hope to be able to return very soon to discuss energy policy and best practices with you.”
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