EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘EU promotes ‘green jobs’ as way out of crisis‘:

Let me first agree on the importance of the discussion presented in the article, and also on the role of climate and energy policies in catalysing the economic recovery and as a source of ‘green jobs’. In relation to this, I would also like to call your attention to the results of a study on the employment effects of a large and deep residential and public buildings energy-efficiency programme in Hungary.

The study was recently completed by the Centre for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy (3CSEP) at Central European University at the request of the European Climate Foundation (ECF). I believe that the results of this research can contribute to illustrating some of the points discussed in the article.

Energy efficiency in buildings creates employment at all skill levels, but particularly among middle- and low-qualified workers. Our model, which combines Input/Output analysis with case study-based estimates, has estimated that 70% of the up to 130,000 net new jobs (including the workforce losses in the energy supply sector) that a deep renovation programme can create in Hungary by 2020 corresponds to skilled and unskilled workers. The remaining 30% of the new positions created would be occupied by professionals (e.g., architects, engineers and similar higher-education employees).

The results also indicate that up to 38% of the estimated employment gains are due to the indirect effects on other sectors that supply the construction industry and the induced effects from the increased spending power resulting from higher employment levels. These redistribute to all sectors of the economy a large fraction of the employment effects of the programme through production chains and household expenditure.

Though some uncertainties remain on the aggregated macroeconomic effects of a large intervention, the study has also found that building refurbishment activities are typically much more labour intensive than other types of climate change mitigation and economic recovery activities. For instance, the forecasted direct employment impacts of deep renovations would be five times higher than those generated in Hungary by the same investment in transport infrastructural developments such as road construction.

The research concluded that up to 85% of Hungarian energy use for heating in buildings, and the corresponding CO2 emissions, can be avoided by a consistent and wide-spread deep retrofitting programme. By 2030, it could save up to 39% of annual natural gas imports, and up to 59% of natural gas import needs in January (compared to 2006-2008 import figures), the most critical month from the perspective of energy security.

Redirecting the existing subsidies to the energy sector and making wiser use of EU funds could make available up to one billion euros per year, an amount that by itself practically covers during the first years of the programme the full annual costs of renovating Hungarian buildings at a gradual implementation rate (2.3% of the floor area, equivalent to 100,000 dwellings, per year).

Such results are particularly significant in Hungary, the member state with the second lowest employment rate of the EU, but are also relevant for other energy-intensive Central and Eastern European member states, whose often inefficient building sector contains substantial energy saving, mitigation and job creation potentials.

However, such large positive effects are only possible if deep renovation know-how is implemented (i.e. delivering over 80% of reduction in the building’s energy use for heating energy by the application of passive-house construction principles), as already demonstrated by the SOLANOVA project. In Hungary, suboptimal renovations achieving approximately only 40% energy-use reduction create less jobs, deliver smaller emission reductions and, worse, lock-in almost half of the energy saving potential of the building stock.

Prof. Diana Ürge-Vorsatz

Centre for Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Policy (3CSEP)

Central European University (CEU)

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