Strategic Energy Technologies Information System
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Europeans spend approximately 90 % of their time in buildings. Living indoors requires energy to maintain the right temperature, to cook and to use electrical appliances. In fact, energy is expected to guarantee a healthy and comfortable environment. Of all the sectors in Europe, the building sector consumes the most energy, and thus emits the most CO2.

Buildings are responsible for 40 % of the EU’s final energy consumption, the highest share. The majority of energy needs – heating & cooling, appliances, water heating and cooking – are still met by fossil fuels. This crucial sector is therefore given particular attention in the European Commission’s proposal for a long-term strategy (LTS) on greenhouse gas reductions.

The Implementation plan on energy efficiency solutions for buildings (SET Plan Activity 5) was endorsed by the SET Plan Steering Group in November 2018. The implementation working group (IWG) 5 consists of two sub-groups focusing on ‘New materials and technologies for energy efficiency solutions in buildings’ and ‘Cross-cutting heating and cooling technologies for buildings’ and covers a large number of topics.

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In Europe, and worldwide, buildings and their related services are responsible for a large share of the total final energy consumption, therefore also for the environmental problems which ensue. Serrano et al. 2017 showed that while the main driver for energy consumption in residential buildings in Europe is the specific energy consumption, this is decreasing due to various technological options and European policies.

The energy efficiency of buildings is currently one of the most important topics of debate at international level. The European Union has promoted programmes, projects and directives to develop harmonised instruments, criteria and solutions to increase the energy efficiency of both new and existing buildings. The main reference legislation in this field includes Directive 2010/31/EU on building energy performance and Directive 2012/27/EU on energy efficiency, along with their subsequent amendments.

Digitalisation is the innovative use of information and communications technologies (ICT), in particular the large-scale rollout of smart devices and sensors, and the use of big data collection and analysis. A recent Joint Research Centre report provides real-world examples of its potential for heating and cooling in buildings and highlights key policy initiatives and research projects.

European building stock is responsible for around a third of CO2 emissions, and the EU has set a target of 20 % reduction by 2020 and 60 % by 2030, from a 1990 baseline. Meeting these targets means focusing on decarbonising the power supply and making concerted efforts to reduce energy demand through retrofits of existing stock.

Carbon neutrality in the building sector requires minimum and flexible demands on energy and materials, as well as the integration of renewable energy sources. Whereas in individual buildings, minimum demand is achieved with active and passive efficiency measures in combination with comfort flexibility and increased tolerance to automated management, approaches at district level allow for additional synergies key to carbon neutrality.

Europe faces a momentous challenge to achieve a highly energy efficient building stock by 2050, with buildings currently the single largest energy consumer. According to data from the EU Building Stock Observatory, more than three quarters of our buildings were constructed before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989.

Residential buildings in Greece account for 27.5 % of the country’s total final energy use (Figure 1), and are responsible for 21.7 % of total carbon dioxide emissions. Space heating (56.2 %) and domestic hot water (DHW) (13.5 %) are the most important end-uses. According to the latest national Buildings Census, there are ~3 million exclusive residential use buildings, representing ~79 % of the building stock.