EU parliamentary committee backs greener buildings renovation drive

By Kate Abnett

BRUSSELS, Feb 9 (Reuters) – The European Parliament’s energy committee on Thursday backed rules to renovate millions of European buildings to cut emissions and save energy, despite pushback against the rules from countries including Italy.

Buildings account for roughly 40% of the European Union’s energy use, and most are heated by fossil fuels. The EU is negotiating rules to upgrade buildings to use less energy – a move that also aims to wean countries off Russian gas faster and curb households’ bills.

The parliamentary committee voted for rules that would require all EU buildings with a “G” energy performance certificate – representing the worst-performing 15% per country – and the next-worst F rating to be renovated this decade.

EU countries would need to renovate non-residential buildings to an E grade by 2027, and D by 2030. Residential buildings would follow later deadlines of E by 2030 and D by 2033. That would require millions of buildings to be upgraded using methods such as insulation or efficient heating systems.

“This is also a growth strategy for Europe that will deliver hundreds of thousands of good quality, local jobs in the construction, renovation, and renewable industries,” said Ciarán Cuffe, lead lawmaker on the rules.

The full EU Parliament will vote on the deal in March, before negotiating the final law with EU countries.

Lawmakers backed the rules despite resistance in countries including Italy, which wants to delay and offer exemptions for renovations it says neither the government nor homeowners can afford.

The lawmakers approved a more ambitious timeline than the one originally proposed by the European Commission. But some campaigners say loopholes could exempt more than 20% of inefficient residential buildings until 2037.

Insulation manufacturer Rockwool said the lawmakers’ deal, if delivered, could curb Europe’s gas use.

“The position of MEPs are backing would cut gas imports by about 35 billion cubic meters per year (by 2033) and save tens of billions on households’ energy bills,” said Brook Riley, Rockwool’s head of EU affairs.

Russia sent around 155 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe per year before its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. (Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Paul Simao)