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south-east european




Strengthening energy security in South-East

Europe by investing in buildings

Accelerating the renovation of the Bulgarian

building stock

An analysis of the vulnerability to gas supply disrup-

tions concludes that Central and South East European

(SEE) countries are facing a strategic choice. The lat-

est BPIE report finds that Slovakia and Hungary face a

severe risk, and Bulgaria a substantial risk to be un-

able to heat the national building stocks. The report

presents a new Building Vulnerability Indicator and of-

fers an alternative solution to mitigating supply risks

through building renovation. A dedicated renovation

programme could, within 20 years, address all gas-us-

ing buildings in the region and reduce the building stock

gas consumption by as much as 8,2 bcm/a, or 70% of

the current consumption.

International developments over the past few years

have intensified the energy challenges Central and

Southern European countries face. The interruption of

Russian gas supply via Ukraine, volatile global oil prices

and divergent interests of State actors have renewed

Europe's concerns about its energy dependency.

The report explores the vulnerability of the building sec-

tor to gas supply interruptions in specific countries of the

region through the prism of the Building stock Vulnera-

bility Indicator (BVI). The BVI takes into account the size

of gas consumption in the building sector along with the

dependence on imported gas and its import diversity.

The BPIE analysis considers an alternative ap-

proach to gas supply investments and instead pro-

poses an "efficiency first" solution: Reducing gas de-

mand through a dedicated building renovation pro-

gramme could considerably improve energy security

and reduce the need for investments in the supply

infrastructure. Unlike supply-side solutions which

make the region more dependent on imported gas in

the long term, demand-side solutions also bring a raft

of other benefits - creating employment, boosting eco-

nomic growth, cutting fuel poverty and improving the

region's often very poor air quality.

BPIE estimated the potential impacts by modelling

four scenarios that examine the evolution of a dedicat-

ed renovation programme focused on gas-consuming

buildings. The savings far outweigh the initial commit-

ment. A renovation programme targeting gas-using

buildings would require an investment of up to EUR 81

billion (present value) over 20 years from all countries

in the region collectively. This investment would lead

to financial returns in the form of reduced energy bills

Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

amounting to EUR 106 billion (present value), more

than offsetting the investment. This benefit does not

yet include the economic advantages of reducing fi-

nancial flows to third countries and the benefit of stimu-

lating the national economy.

The report puts forward a set of recommendations

covering risk assessment and preventive measures,

guidance on investment opportunities as well as on de-

veloping future EU and MS level strategies.

Oliver Rapf, BPIE's Executive Director, concludes

that "governments should consider viable alternatives

to decrease energy supply risks and encourage in-

vestments for upgrading their national building stock.

This would generate domestic growth, modernise the

national building infrastructure and would improve in-

habitants' living conditions".

A new analysis by the Buildings Performance In-

stitute Europe (BPIE) sets out a long-term roadmap

for further development of the Bulgarian renovation

programme for multifamily buildings. Following the

implementation of the programme's first phase, the

analysis argues for a shift in focus towards achiev-

ing higher energy classes, reducing at the same

time the level of public subsidy in a measured and

manageable manner.

The study reaffirms that deep retrofitting to high

energy efficiency classes is economically more

beneficial than "shallow" renovation. It goes further

by supporting the concept of "step-by-step" reno-

vation, leading ultimately to a class A or nearly

Zero-Energy Building. Such a phased implementa-

tion would prevent the "lock-in" effect of shallow

renovations, which might deliver "quick wins" in

terms of energy saving, but ultimately hamper the

achievement of the full potential for economic, so-

cial and environmental benefits.

Several scenarios to 2030 were modelled, from which

the writers conclude that reducing subsidies to around

75% is possible now. By strengthening further support

measures, subsidies could ultimately be reduced to

around 25%. In doing so, funding could reach many

more citizens, improving their homes and increasing

their quality of life.

In order to facilitate increased financial contribu-

tions from homeowners, simple and attractive fi-

nancing mechanisms and incentives - appropriate

to the needs of residents - need to be developed.

These should be accompanied by other non-financial

measures such as awareness-raising campaigns,

building capacity throughout the supply chain and de-

veloping standardised solutions to bring costs down.

Simplified procedures and measures to help homeown-

ers through the application process will also reduce

barriers and costs.

With most Bulgarian households currently under-

heating their dwellings, one of the main outcomes

of a mass renovation programme will be the im-

provement of comfort levels. This is a real benefit,

and should be valued in the economic appraisal,

according to the writers. Other benefits, including

Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

improved health, better air quality, alleviating fuel

poverty as well as improved energy security, ar-

gue strongly in favour of continued support for this


While this approach is indeed unique to the Bulgarian

case, it may serve as an example for other countries in

the region with a similar building stock profile and eco-

nomic conditions.

This study was carried out by an international

team of organisations. The overall coordination

was carried out by BPIE and the Center for Energy

Efficiency EnEffect - Sofia with the support of the

European Climate Foundation, in close coopera-

tion with Technische Universitat Wien (TU Wien)

and "Za Zemiata" - Sofia.