Economic-Engineering Modelling of the Buildings Sector to Study the Transition towards Deep Decarbonisation in the EU

Article - June 17, 2019

The paper presents a newly developed economic-engineering model of the buildings sector and its implementation for all the European Union (EU) Member States (MS), designed to study in detail ambitious energy efficiency strategies and policies, in the context of deep decarbonisation in the long term. The model has been used to support the impact assessment study that accompanied the European Commission’s communication “A Clear Planet for All”, in November 2018. The model covers all EU countries with a fine resolution of building types, and represents agent decision-making in a complex and dynamic economic-engineering mathematical framework. Emphasis is given to behaviours driving the energy renovation of buildings and the ensuing choice of equipment for heating and cooling. The model represents several market and non-market policies that can influence energy decisions in buildings and promote deep energy renovation. Moreover, the paper presents key applications for supporting policies targeting ambitious reduction of energy consumption and carbon emissions in buildings across Europe. The results illustrate that the achievement of ambitious energy-efficiency targets in the long-term heavily depends on pursuing a fast and extensive renovation of existing buildings, at annual rates between 1.21% and 1.77% for the residential sector and between 0.92% to 1.35% for the services sector. In both cases, the renovation rates are far higher past trends. Strong policies aimed at removing non-market barriers are deemed necessary. Electrification constitutes a reasonable choice for deeply renovated buildings and, as a result, almost 50% of households chooses electric heating over gas heating in the long term. However, heat pumps need to exploit further their learning potential to be economical and implementable for the various climatic conditions in Europe. The results also show that the cost impacts are modest even if renovation and decarbonisation in buildings develop ambitiously in the EU. The reduced energy bills due to energy savings can almost offset the increasing capital expenditures. Fundraising difficulties
and the cost of capital are, however, of concern.

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