>> “Climate Solutions” is also available as a podcast and an e-book.


By Louise White and Reinhard Six

The electricity and fuel used to heat, cool and light buildings account for nearly 40% of energy consumption in Europe and are responsible for around 35% of greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings are the single biggest consumers of energy, so making them more efficient can have a big impact on the race to meet climate goals.

The challenge is immense. Nearly half of all European residential buildings were constructed before 1970, when materials, standards and techniques didn’t consider how much energy was consumed. Many of these older buildings will still be in use in 2050 and beyond. The European Commission estimates that 75 percent of buildings and housing could be made more energy efficient, while less than 1% of housing is renovated each year for energy efficiency.

The European Union wants to cut overall emissions by 40% by 2030 and increase energy efficiency by more than 30%. The European Investment Bank’s ambition to finance €1 trillion in climate action by 2030 is key to achieving these targets. Here are some of the tools the EU bank and its partners will be using to get the job done.

Consuming less energy

Energy efficiency in buildings is achieved by measures that result in lower gas or electricity consumption for the same comfort. For example, by retrofitting a home — adding better insulation to the roof and walls, or installing a new boiler — you get the same comfortable temperature, but you use  less energy. Modern LED lighting and skylights provide the same illumination levels, but use much less electricity. Smart homes that turn off gas or power after a certain time also help cut energy use. Energy efficient windows and doors can make a difference in energy bills and comfort. Smart meters also help save money.

©PeopleImages/Getty Images

Moving faster on energy efficiency savings

Making homes and businesses more efficient is a key way to address global warming and meet our climate targets. To support the European Union’s policy objectives, the European Investment Bank offers many financial and advisory products and initiatives aimed specifically at building renovation. These products can help many stakeholders, such as owners, developers, cities, municipalities, housing companies, investment funds, corporations and financial intermediaries.

One initiative run by the European Investment Bank and the European Commission, the Smart Finance for Smart Buildings Initiative, targets energy efficiency in existing buildings, particularly in the residential sector. This programme aims to unlock billions of euros in public and private energy efficiency investment by 2020.

The EU bank lends money directly to projects, but it also gives loans through regional and national banks and other institutions. These banks then pass on loans to small businesses and homeowners. The Private Finance for Energy Efficiency programme, run by the European Investment Bank with the European Commission, offers loans and credit-risk protection to commercial banks, which then finance energy efficiency projects at small and medium-sized companies around Europe.

To make the loan process easier, a new Private Finance for Energy Efficiency tool, called the Energy Efficiency Quick Estimator, can be customised by local banks to help people understand the savings for typical energy efficiency projects, such as replacing a boiler or adding LED lights and solar panels. You can enter basic information, such as the project’s location or whether solar panels will be integrated, and the tool estimates energy savings, cost savings and emission reductions.

©Sabine Parisse/RenoWatt - EDF Luminus solutions

Getting an energy efficiency project off the ground

Before a project can get off the ground or receive financial support from the private and public sectors, it often requires technical assistance. Another European Investment Bank programme run with the European Commission and centred on preparing energy efficiency projects is ELENA, the European Local ENergy Assistance facility.

ELENA’s grants pay for actions that help develop projects, such as feasibility studies, programme structuring, business plans, energy audits, and the preparation of tenders and contracts.

Over the past 10 years, ELENA has provided more than €168 million in grants for technical assistance on energy efficiency and renewable energy in buildings, homes and urban transport. The initiative has helped add new windows and boilers in schools and kindergartens, improved insulation in social housing, built tram networks and installed rooftop solar systems. Ultimately these 95 projects so far are expected to lead to over €6 billion in investment in energy and transport efficiency, with a savings of more than 3,600 GWh of energy and 1.4 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

In one ELENA project, the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana asked for help to renovate 70 schools, libraries, health centres and even a landmark castle. ELENA’s assistance helped the city lower its district heating costs and put it on track to become a sustainable city by 2025.

These kindergarteners in Yerevan, Armenia, have more comfortable schools after the European Investment Bank helped renovate 140 city kindergartens to make them more energy efficient. ©EIB

In Ireland’s County Tipperary, an ELENA grant is allowing the Tipperary Energy Agency to prepare energy audits and feasibility studies for hundreds of energy renovations in private homes, helping residents install and replace older heating systems with modern heat pumps. ELENA assistance also includes projects for:

  • more energy efficient housing in Poland
  • reduced energy consumption in Romanian schools
  • new hybrid buses in Spain.

ELENA also supports the targets of the Smart Finance for Smart Buildings Initiative, which has helped:

  • install solar panels in social housing in Flanders, Belgium
  • the Belgian province of Limburg assess and finance energy efficiency measures in individual homes
  • a Latvian financial institution assess and finance building upgrades in small businesses.

Climate Solutions: How to promote energy efficiency savings if you’re a…

Policymaker: As the lending arm of the European Union, the European Investment Bank supports projects that help make EU policy a reality. As one of the world’s largest providers of climate finance, our projects, including energy efficiency work, will continue to help meet the EU carbon neutrality target by 2050.

Citizen: When local banks take advantage of “intermediated” lending from the European Investment Bank, this can provide citizens with loans that are long-term tenors and at favourable rates. Help for citizens may also be available from ELENA-supported programmes.

Financial institutions: The EIB has a close partnership with hundreds of banks and financial institutions across the EU and in other countries in which we have signed a cooperation mandate. Such partnerships combine the European Investment Bank’s financial strength with the specific expertise of the local banking sector and in turn help the world meet the Paris Agreement goals through energy efficiency projects on the ground.

Reinhard Six and Louise White are senior energy engineers at the European Investment Bank


>> “Climate Solutions” is also available as a podcast and an e-book.