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Researchers urge the new government to boost clean energy solutions in buildings

Rakennukset
A group of top researchers have published a list of suggestions for actions that will allow the new Finnish government to calculate greenhouse gas emissions of construction, use of buildings, and the production of building materials.

The government programme should include the goal of reducing the carbon footprint of the building stock by 90 percent by the end of the 2030s. The state must support the energy improvements of housing associations, service buildings and detached houses with state subsidies and guaranteed loans. The energy efficiency requirements for new buildings should also be tightened.

The above-mentioned actions are part of the policy recommendations that a large group of researchers across Finland have signed. The researchers are demanding that policy-makers take swift action to reduce the carbon footprint of the Finnish construction sector.

In the Tampere universities community, the action plan has been signed by Principal Lecturer Pirkko Harsia from Tampere University of Applied Sciences and Professor Pertti Järventausta from Tampere University. Both researchers are also involved in the EL-TRAN consortium. Harsia emphasises that the work on preventing climate change will affect all areas of life.

“This issue will concern everyone, every citizen. The scale of the problem is enormous,” Harsia points out.

Consumers are becoming more active in the energy sector

The accelerating climate change is forcing humankind to take action. The researchers emphasise that there is no time for waiting: things must change now.

“We are in a situation where we must to take these things into account. At some point somebody is forced to take action or the costs will be huge,” Harsia says.

The researchers highlight a number of technical solutions to reduce emissions: heat pumps that use heat from the environment, heat recovery from exhaust air and wastewater, solar energy, energy storages, demand response solutions and charging stations for electric cars.

“Previously, we have had the electricity grid with consumers buying electricity. In the future, consumers will become a more active part of electricity generation. They are no longer just passive end-users,” Harsia says.

Finland must cut emissions by more than a hundred percent

One-third of Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions come from construction, use of buildings and construction materials. The EU directive on the energy performance of buildings requires that the Union has a carbon neutral building stock by 2050.

For Finland, for example, this means that by 2030, the consumption of thermal energy in new residential buildings will have to decrease by almost 50 %. According to the assessment of the Finnish Climate Panel, Finland should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 110-130 % by 2050 compared to the levels of 1990.

However, the policy recommendations emphasise that clean energy and construction solutions have great export and employment potential. For example, the UN report on Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment published last year shows that in 2017, more new solar energy capacity than the combined fossil fuel forms was installed worldwide.

The other side of the coin is that in the same year, only 12.1 % of the world’s energy was produced with renewable sources. Growth from the previous year was 1.1 %, which means that this pace must accelerate considerably.

Researchers’ voices should be heard

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has set the goal of halting global warming to 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. It requires an immense effort and actions from all countries.  In order for the goal to be achievable, political decisions must be based on scientific knowledge.

According to Harsia, decision-makers’ attitudes have changed for the better in the recent years.

“Researchers are currently heard, and good changes have happened. Researchers have also become more active in discussing this topic in public,” Harsia says.

 

Text: Jaakko Kinnunen
Picture: Jonne Renvall

 

A link to the policy recommendations