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Press Release

Fraunhofer Institute for
Systems and Innovation Research ISI

Fast progress being made across Europe on research geared to nearly zero energy buildings

Press Release 04.02.2014 

In order to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the energy consumption for the heating and cooling of buildings – among other things – must be substantially reduced. The different climatic zones in the European Union make different strategies necessary. In the ENTRANZE project, which is funded by the EU, ten European project partners analysed which technologies are appropriate for which country and how the technologies can best achieve market penetration. The research reports are complemented by an interactive tool and a podcast. In Germany the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI and Oeko-Institut are involved in ENTRANZE.

To meet the ambitious EU climate targets – reduction of greenhouse gases and expanded use of renewable energies – it makes sense to take the buildings sector as a starting point: In industrialised countries approx. 40 per cent of the total energy consumption stems from the heating and cooling of buildings. In the ENTRANZE (Policies to ENforce the TRAnsition to Nearly Zero-Energy buildings in Europe) project, the research partners are developing, among other things, a database for nearly zero energy buildings that do not waste energy and the energy supply for which predominantly comes from renewable energies.

What technologies can be used to meet the above-mentioned climate targets is primarily a question of location: For example, good heat insulation amortises more quickly in Finland than in Italy while the use of solar collectors makes more sense in southern Europe.

In the ENTRANZE project, policy measures, laws and incentives are analysed, taking into consideration the different climatic conditions across Europe. In the process, the researchers show how best to support political decisions on which instruments are most suitable in a country to promoting nearly zero energy buildings and heat and cooling production from renewable energies.

The results reached up to now have been incorporated in several publications. The project has also analysed policy instruments for the modernisation of buildings, ranging from "hard" regulatory measures via different financial support measures to "soft" incentive schemes. Veit Bürger of Oeko-Institut, the author of the report, sees the climate levy on buildings as especially innovative and effective. With this levy, building owners would have to pay a staggered levy determined by the energy standard of their building. The revenues from the levy would finance a support program that helps building owners to modernise their buildings to meet a set minimum energy standard.

The policy measures of EU Member States for increasing the number of nearly zero energy buildings were evaluated in a further analysis. Tanja Kenkmann of Oeko-Institut, the author of the report, stresses that "the previous efforts of EU Member States are not sufficient to increase the energy quality of buildings to the extent that they become nearly zero energy buildings." To meet the EU targets, more extensive measures are needed. The ENTRANZE project takes this as a point of departure and provides policy makers with recommendations for action.

Within the scope of a literature review, energy simulation models were analysed for the buildings sector. Jan Steinbach of Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovations Research ISI, the author of the report, shows well-researched approaches that are able to incorporate the behaviour of policy makers and barriers in the decision and investment process. At a conference in Kiev Jan Steinbach briefly presented the instruments implemented in Germany and experiences made with them.

As a result of ENTRANZE, the policy makers can not only draw upon the conducted analyses but also access information interactively: For example, the End Use Efficiency Research Group of Politecnico di Milano developed a tool for market participants, policy makers and experts, with which the effect of different measures on different building types can be predicted. The climate zone, different energy price scenarios and different generations of renewable energies are, among other things, included in the analysis. The comprehensive database makes the choice of least cost solutions for nearly zero energy buildings in Europe easier.

In addition, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has made a podcast on ENTRANZE in which, for instance, the policy advisory process in nine EU countries is highlighted.

Further information on the ENTRANZE project is available from the project website:

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.

Oeko-Institut is a leading independent European research and consultancy institute working for a sustainable future. Founded in 1977, the institute develops principles and strategies for ways in which the vision of sustainable development can be realised globally, nationally and locally. It has offices in three cities in Germany: Freiburg, Darmstadt and Berlin.