Making buildings in Estonia energy efficient to cost €22 billion

An apartment building in Estonia.
An apartment building in Estonia. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

According to a proposal from the European Commission, energy efficiency rules could apply not only to new buildings but also to existing ones, which in Estonia's case would mean spending around 22 billion euros over 30 years on renovating buildings, Postimees reported.

Buildings, which use 40 percent of energy and generate 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, are Europe's largest energy consumers. The Commission proposes that all new buildings be zero-emission from 2030, whereas all new public buildings should be zero-emission from 2027.

Meanwhile, the Commission's request also applies to the existing building stock. 

Fifteen percent of the least energy efficient buildings in each member state should be upgraded from the lowest energy label G to F. The deadlines again are 2027 for non-residential buildings and 2030 for residential buildings. The ultimate goal is to make buildings emission-free by 2050.

In order to meet European targets, the buildings with the lowest energy efficiency ratings, or E, F and G, must be renovated to at least the level of energy efficiency label C.

Spokespeople for the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications told Postimees that the new directive is still a draft and that negotiations between the member states will begin soon, in the course of which the eventual proposal may still change. 

The building stock that needs to be given a full overhaul in 30 years is massive in Estonia, said Jarek Kurnitski, director of the Institute of Construction and Architecture of Tallinn University of Technology and a member of the Academy of Sciences.

Estonia's long-term reconstruction strategy says that all buildings built before 2000 should be taken to energy efficiency level C within the next 30 years.

Kurnitski noted that in the case of apartment buildings, this means a complete overhaul with the subsidy of the Kredex foundation, in the course of which the buildings are insulated, the windows replaced and heat recovery ventilation installed.

"This is where the list of compulsory works ends, but many add solar panels to generate electricity, because the subsidy makes it a very cost-effective measure and allows to get an even better result," he said.

Three thousand apartment buildings have already undergone a comprehensive overhaul in Estonia, while 14,000 others are waiting for their turn, just like 100,000 small houses and 27,000 non-residential buildings. All in all, according to Kurnitski, overhaul of the building stock will cost 22 billion euros over 30 years.

There is no problem with the buildings currently being built in Estonia, as these must be class A energy-label buildings, meaning near zero energy buildings.

Kurnitski also said it has been some time since the last time Estonia saw cases where, after the completion of a building, it turned out that its energy performance did not comply with the label issued.

"There have been cases where less insulation or poorer quality windows were used. It may also be the case that a ventilation system with heat recovery was not installed and only an exhaust ventilation was built," Kurnitski said.

The last such cases, according to Kurnitski, were seen about five years ago.

"Energy efficiency requirements have been in place since 2008 and all property developers who build homes have done these energy calculations very accurately to optimize construction costs," he added.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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