The EU Recovery Plan: an opportunity to prioritise clean air

The European Partnership for Energy and Environment (EPEE) welcomes the proposal for a Recovery Plan for Europe, which recognises the urgent need to boost residential and public building renovations to kick-start the EU economy and reduce emissions, therefore,  setting the right direction to prioritise clean air.

The COVID-19 crisis taught us many lessons, but one is particularly striking: as coal and oil consumption plummeted in Europe, air pollution levels improved radically. The air quality improvement resulted in 11,000 avoided deaths and many other avoided health impacts from air pollution due to burning less coal and oil, according to latest findings by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

Heating and cooling (HVACR) have a major role to play in that context, as the sector is responsible for almost half of Europe’s final energy consumption out of which around 80% are still based on fossil fuels, especially in heating. This big share can be radically reduced with short term effect, as sustainable heating and cooling technologies are readily available to be broadly deployed, most importantly in energy renovations of buildings.

Andrea Voigt, EPEE’s Director General said: “Heat pumps, district heating and cooling, waste heat recovery – these are all solutions to use energy more efficiently, taking an integrated approach to heating and cooling and supporting the phase out of fossil fuels. They also come with an important additional, and often underestimated positive “side-effect”: the significant improvement of the air that we breathe. This is true for our outdoor environment but even more so indoors where Europeans spend on average 90% of their time, working, learning, shopping, and socialising”.

HVACR installations help guarantee a reliable circulation of fresh air in indoor spaces by supplying outside air and boosting air exchange rates. Built-in filters in HVACR equipment also help catch particles and reduce their transmission. Highest standards of indoor air quality and comfort, provided by efficient, state-of-the-art heating, cooling and ventilation installations are essential to ensure the health and productivity of building users and increase their work and learning performance.

Voigt concluded: “Investing into sustainable heating and cooling is a true win-win solution in the broader context of Europe’s green recovery. It will ensure improved health, productivity and well-being of citizens while boosting the economy and delivering on energy and climate goals