Energy for a New Decade

With the start of a new decade and the challenges which climate change pose upon us individually and as a society, we wish to dedicate our efforts towards placing focus, with ongoing dedication, towards the use of energy in housing. Amidst the enormous discussion around the effects and necessary changes in transportation and how electric vehicles are having an impact upon one of the largest industries in Europe, there is very little conversation and I dare say knowledge regarding the relevance which energy consumption in housing has upon the planet.

Housing: the largest consumer of energy

According to the official records, the increase in GreenHouse Gases (GHG) within the Balearic Islands reached a staggering 70% between 1990 - 2008. The production of electricity is responsible for 42,4% of GHG on the islands and only 18% is currently obtained from renewable sources. Transportation, with over 220.000 yearly flights, 600 cruise ships and one car per inhabitant (1,1 million), is accountable for 37,3% of the GHG produced on the Balearic Islands.  Industrial production, on the other hand, contributes a minor 6,8% of GHG within our service-oriented economy.

The dominating role of housing as a consumer of energy in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera is within european standards, where approximately 50% of all of the produced energy is used to heat or cool buildings to the comfort levels that modern living standards demand. An additional reason for concern is that in Spain more than half of the properties were built before 1980 and one in five has more than half a century of age. Obsolete and inefficient buildings do not comply by far with current construction standards. The EU should invest an annual € 180 billion annually to reverse the trend and meet the objectives set by Brussels. Within the framework of the 2015 Paris Agreement, the European Union has set the binding goal of being climatically neutral in 2050, that is, reaching zero carbon emissions. As a result, the pressure amongst the housing industry is enormous, but it will generate new opportunities that will soon become visible within the market.

Reaching Energy Efficiency

Decarbonization and energy neutrality are two necessary elements in order to balance climate, but how can housing industry achieve these goals? Rehabilitation of buildings and increased use of renewable energy sources are the key to a sustainable future.

It is widely confirmed that a badly insulated building loses 50% of its energy through the roof and walls. This inefficient use of energy can account for up to 65% of the emissions produced by a building and proper insulation is the simplest and most effective method to reduce GHG emissions and save money. 

In the Balearic Islands all multifamily buildings with more than 50 years of age must undergo a compulsory Technical Inspection and Evaluation: “Inspección Técnica Edificio (ITE) and Informe Evaluación Edificio (IEE)”. In addition to the overall conservation and security of the construction and its accessibility for persons with reduced mobility, the building must receive an Energy Certificate. The resulting report can include obligatory measures to be taken on behalf of the owners of the property and the report becomes a required document for sale of buildings that have reached this point of maturity.

In regard to the use of renewable energy sources, the Balearic Islands are in an embarrassing position with only 18% of energy obtained from green sources versus the 60% use of renewable energy reached on other locations within Europe. Aerothermal and geothermal energy and photovoltaic panels are commonly seen in the construction of new luxury residences, but are hardly visible within older existing buildings. However, efficient energy use is clearly gaining strength in the expectations by the modern consumer and the ecological awareness of our modern society. Once again, this profound change will become an increasing opportunity for companies within the housing sector. Combined with the extremely limited amount of available building land, the necessity towards the rehabilitation of existing buildings and increasing their energetic efficiency is clearer than ever.


The Road Ahead: Framework and Joint Responsibility

It is obvious that politics, administration and society in general have very little time to waste before the planet has reached a climatic point of no return. Whilst climate change denialists are cornered into a position of mantric disbelief  fueled and incentivised by the carbon industry, it is our joint obligation to step into action without further delay.

The Balearic Government passed a break-through Law for Climate Change and Energy Transition in the Balearics in 2019. This law recognises the vulnerability, dependency on fossil fuels within the islands and at the same time considers the special opportunity that this represents for the society in the Balearics. The law was drawn as a result of the Climate Agreement in Paris in 2015 and its objectives are to order the actions aimed to:

  • mitigate and prepare for climate change in the Balearic Islands
  • transition to a socially just, decarbonized, intelligent, efficient, renewable and democratic energy model.

The law anticipates a 35% share of energy from renewable sources by 2030 (representing 40% less GHG emissions) and 100% renewable energy by 2050 (equalling a 90% reduction in GHG emissions). On the other hand, energy efficiency is to be stepped up to 26% by 2030 and 40% by 2050.

In order to achieve these important and ambitious goals, the Balearic Islands are pushing the transition towards renewable energy in the construction or rehabilitation of buildings, use of solar panels in parking lots of over 1.000 m2 and have recently approved an incentive package of 3 million Euros during 2020 in order to fund the installation of photovoltaic panels and wind energy installations for self consumption on the Balearics.

At the same time, on the 01st January 2020 two of the four coal engines of the electrical plant Es Murterar in Alcudia where shut down forever. This is undoubtedly one of the historic achievements in energy transition and it will be followed by a consistent reduction of coal use for electricity production until the final closure of the electrical plant. Es Murterar has been responsible for 27% of the CO2 generated in the Balearics, with a peak production of 249 tons of CO2 per hour. The final two generators will be stopped as soon as the second electrical connection to mainland Spain arrives via Alcudia, a measure already contemplated within the state energy plan.

With these strong examples and powerful actions it is now our turn to consider our role and obligations as a society for a brighter future, where coming generations have the same right as we have to enjoy a clean environment and to avoid the effects of climate change produced by human kind.

On this road ahead we shall take advantage of our role within the real estate market by creating a platform for  change and shall include it permanently into our communication, recommendations towards property owners and developers, generating connections between conscious consumers and companies providing services and solutions for green and sustainable living.

With a heart full of joy, illusion and renewed energy we welcome the new decade of the 2020’s!

Hans Lenz


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