Energy efficiency of buildings: changes at European level and how Romania is adapting

Categorie: Public policies and measures for the energy transition Data postare: 11 May 2021

Energy efficiency is an important segment in the process of decarbonising European economies and one of the pillars of the European Green Deal, the strategic framework for the transition to a free greenhouse gases economy in 2050. This dimension is also a priority in the recovery efforts after the Covid-19 crisis.

In order to accelerate the decarbonisation of the national economy and achieve the energy efficiency goals, increased efforts and coherent investment measures are needed in several economic sectors, including the residential sector. According to the Romanian National energy and climate plan (NECP), residential buildings had the largest share of final energy consumption between 2005-2017[1]:sursa: PNIESC

Total consum de energie primară  Total primary energy consumption
Consum final de energie – Industrie Final energy consumption – industry
Consum final de energie – Sector rezidenţial Final energy consumption – residential sector 
Consum final de energie – Transport Final energy consumption – transport
Consum final de energie – Sector terţiar Final energy consumption – tertiary sector

Renovation wave

European Commission’s new initiative, “Renovation Wave“, published in October 2020, supports the decarbonisation and improvement of energy performance in the residential and non-residential sectors. To achieve the target of 55% emissions reduction by 2030, it is estimated that additional investment of about EUR 275 billion will be needed to renovate the building stock[2]

More specifically, this strategy will focus on reducing energy poverty, increasing energy performance of private and public buildings such as health, administrative or educational units, but also on decarbonising heating and cooling systems by facilitating the integration of renewable energy sources, providing financial and technical support for the development of this process.

During 2021 two legislative frameworks for this sector will be reviewed – the Directive on the energy performance of buildings (EPBD Directive) and the Directive on energy efficiency (EE Directive). The two revised Directives will introduce, among others, mandatory minimum energy performance standards for all types of buildings – so far Member States were deciding on the standards, will strengthen the rules for the energy performance certificate and contract and will revise the requirements for energy audits for non-residential buildings.

The residential sector - top priority in Romania

According to an analysis of the World Bank, in Romania there are 5.6 million buildings, of which 90% are residential – 58% houses and 32% flat buildings, and 10% are non-residential (offices, administrative, health, educational, commercial spaces). 

The measures and actions required for the energy efficiency of the residential sector are included in the National Long-Term Renovation Strategy, a strategic document mandatory for all Member States in the EPBD Directive. It is also a national need to successfully meet new targets –  32.5% in energy savings by and 55% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The strategy was supposed to be sent to the European Commission by March 2020, a deadline that Romania did not meet. The document was approved by the Government in November 2020.

The data on which the Strategy is based on highlight the fact that there is a need to amplify  energy efficiency actions, considering that out of the total building stock, the residential sector has a share of 81% of the final energy consumption, the remaining 19% being consumed in non-residential buildings.

The main objectives of the National Renovation Strategy are to increase the energy performance of the existing building stock, reduce energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and integrate the use of renewable energy sources in buildings. Most energy-intensive buildings use fossil fuel and biomass heating systems[3],so implementing renewable energy sources together with renovation measures can increase the energy performance of buildings and contribute to climate objectives at the same time. 

In addition, the measures developed under the Strategy are designed to reduce energy poverty, currently estimated at 1.7 million households[4], to improve thermal comfort and safety of buildings, while supporting the development of professional skills and innovation in the energy efficiency sector. For effective monitoring of the Strategy, the document must include a roadmap with measurable progress indicators and milestones for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

Additional budgetary and legislative needs

The budget needed for the implementation of the Strategy is estimated at EUR 5 billion by 2030, which will be covered by the state budget and European funds available through the new operational programmes for 2021-2027 and the Recovery and Resilience Mechanism: approx. EUR 870 million will come from the Regional Operational Programmes 2021-2027, and EUR 2.2 billion will be available through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, which is still being negotiated with the European Commission.

The elaboration of the Strategy started in 2019 under the coordination of the Ministry of Public Works, Development and Administration (MLPDA). The public consultations organized were attended by representatives of the ministries, local and regional public authorities, non-governmental organizations and associations, international and national financial institutions, as well as representatives of academia.

The recommendations and suggestions gathered from the consultations highlight, among other things, the lack of databases containing all the buildings and details on energy consumption, the limited capacity of the authorities to monitor renovation works, but also incoherent public policies and insufficient legislation to accelerate renovations. For example, the current legislative framework needs to be improved to better involve homeowners’ associations in supervising renovation work, simplifying public procurement procedures for renovation services which currently make it difficult to implement energy efficiency measures, but also to create a clear and accessible funding mechanisms for all those interested in increasing the energy performance of buildings.

At present the Strategy lacks an Action Plan for implementation, which is mandatory and must be presented within 9 months from the adoption of the Strategy by the Government. It is not clear whether this deadline will be met, given that there is currently no timetable for drawing up this Action Plan, and the responsible people have not been appointed yet[5]

The decarbonisation of the building stock in Romania needs a revised legislative framework adapted to the new energy efficiency objectives, coordinated authorities for the efficient development of renovation works, but also an increase of administrative capacity both to attract the necessary funds to implement the Strategy and to monitoring it.

[5]According to access to information answer from the General Secretariat of the Government