Discussing energy and sustainability with Mr Stefan Moser, Head of Unit at the European Commission

In October 2020, the Commission presented its Renovation wave strategy as part of the European Green Deal. The strategy includes an action plan with concrete regulatory, financing and enabling measures to boost building renovation. A revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive is one of its key initiatives. Can you please explain the main objectives of the proposal and how SMEs in the hospitality sector can best adapt to future required changes (e.g., minimum energy performance standards; energy performance certificates; car charging stations; bicycle parking stations)? Does the Directive, in your view, consider the different levels of renovation across the EU?

The main purpose of the proposal for a revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) is to increase the rate and depth of renovations to contribute to the 2030 target of 55% greenhouse gas emissions reduction and reach net zero emissions by 2050. In view of Russia’s invasion and the current war in Ukraine, saving energy is the cheapest, safest and cleanest way to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel imports from Russia.

For the hospitality sector, improved energy performance of hotels, restaurants and cafes as well as increased use of locally produced renewable energy will help mitigate the impacts of high energy prices and improve the long-term viability of the sector. A key instrument in the proposal is the National Building Renovation Plans which ensures that the measures taken are closely linked to the situation in each individual Member State. Another key proposal is linked to financing and the availability of technical assistance and one-stop shops.

For the hospitality sector, meeting the needs of sustainable transport infrastructure will be a competitive advantage as travel behaviours shift to more sustainable transport modes. Therefore, the measures put forward by the Commission are minimum measures, which complement the targets for publicly available infrastructure in the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation proposal.

The EPBD recast proposal as presented by the Commission in December 2021 and the amendment on solar energy in the REPowerEU plan from May 2022 are now being discussed by the co-legislators. It is now up to the Council and the European Parliament to agree on a text that works best for all and adequately contributes both to our short-term objectives of minimising fossil fuel imports and to our long-term ambition to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

In response to the hardships and global energy market disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in May 2022, the European Commission presented the REPowerEU Plan. Can you please describe the main objectives of the Plan?

REPowerEU is the Commission’s response to reduce our dependence on Russian fossil fuels while speeding up the clean energy transition.  In practice, this means in the short term finding new partnerships, or deepening existing ones, to secure more reliable suppliers around the world. It also means ensuring that we are prepared for future gas cuts by Russia such as filling our own gas storage levels, particularly ahead of the coming winter. It also means, from a more long-term perspective accelerating the clean energy transition by implementing proposals of the European Green Deal “Fit for 55” package, as quickly as possible and presenting new initiatives to roll out renewables, become more energy efficient and save energy.

REPowerEU proposes even higher energy efficiency targets to 13%, from 9% already on the table in the ‘Fit for 55 proposals of 2021. It also includes an ‘EU Save Energy Communication’ detailing short-term behavioural changes that could cut gas and oil demand by 5%, still this year and encourages the Member States to launch communication campaigns.  Through these measures, we can, together, reduce our energy use and our dependency on Russia.

Companies in the hospitality sector (90% of them being micro-enterprises and 99% SMEs) are struggling with the need to cope with Green Deal targets while facing the enormous challenge of energy price increases, and still recovering from the Covid-19 crisis. Do you have a concrete message you would like to share with our members?

We are fully aware of the serious difficulties faced by many businesses and we have for this reason adopted temporary frameworks on State aid so that public authorities at the national and local levels can help struggling companies faced with lower turnover and soaring energy prices. Despite the challenges, I am confident that SMEs and micro-enterprises in the hospitality sector will be key players in the green transition. Hotels, restaurants and cafes across Europe have the opportunity to showcase innovative solutions and pave the way for sustainable choices for all citizens. Of course, financing is crucial and the EPBD proposal includes several new measures, including a requirement for MS to provide appropriate financing, support measures and other instruments to address market barriers and stimulate the necessary investments in energy renovations. In addition to the availability of financing on the EU and national level, also easy access to financing is very important for SMEs and micro-enterprises and this is why the Commission is paying a lot of attention to the rollout of One-Stop Shops in all Member States.

Finally, we have been amending the State aid rules so that the Member States can provide the necessary help to businesses for them to carry out the investments needed to reduce their energy consumption. We believe that this will really provide a win-win situation for all.

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