Facebook Pixel
Thoughts on the Market

Sustainability: Energy-Efficient Buildings in Europe

Thoughts on the Market
Thoughts on the Market

As Europe commits to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, one hurdle will be the energy emissions caused by buildings’ operations. What investment opportunities might come from energy renovation? European Building and Construction Equity Analyst Ceder Ekblom and European Property Analyst Sebastian Isola discuss. 

----- Transcript -----

Cedar Ekblom: Welcome to Thoughts on the Market. I'm Cedar Ekblom, Equity Analyst covering European Building and Construction for Morgan Stanley research. 

Sebastian Isola: And I'm Sebastian Isola from the European Property Team. 

Cedar Ekblom: On this special episode of Thoughts on the Market, we'll discuss Europe's commitment to building energy efficiency. 

Cedar Ekblom: Sebastian when I talk to investors and talk about energy emissions, most people immediately think of cars and transportation. But according to the International Energy Agency, in 2021 the operation of buildings accounted for 30% of global final energy consumption and 27% of total energy sector emissions. That's a huge number. A lot of people don't realize that. So it's clear that decarbonizing building stock is essential to achieving a net zero by 2050 scenario. Sebastian, we recently wrote about this and with this big goal in mind, can you give us an overview of where Europe is right now and what the biggest opportunities are that you see? 

Sebastian Isola: I think to start, Europe's building stock is old and inefficient. More than 40% was built before 1970 when the first energy efficiency standards were introduced, and we're currently renovating just 1% of building stock a year. The European Commission thinks that this needs to at least double to meet its 2030 target for a 55% cut in emissions. If we successfully lift innovation spend, there is a big opportunity for makers of solar, heating and ventilation equipment, building automation, energy efficient lighting, and any product linked to the building envelope from insulation to roofing and windows. 

Cedar Ekblom: So it sounds like there's great opportunity here, but investors often push back with the argument that energy renovation is a 'hope' rather than a reality. What are your views on the economics of investment? 

Sebastian Isola: I think firstly, I'd say that our alphawise survey gives us a proprietary insight into what's really happening on the ground. It confirms renovation spend is on the rise, there was a 10% increase in the number of people that renovated their homes to save energy in 2022 versus 2021. Secondly, for commercial property landlords, the economics of investment is clear. Green buildings are attracting higher rents, and in some markets, office buildings with sustainability ratings are being awarded materially higher valuations, sometimes more than a 20% premium. And Cedar, what are the key renovation categories and what is the driving motivation behind them? 

Cedar Ekblom: Well, if you talk to anyone in the industry, they'll tell you that fabric first is where we need to start. So what does that actually mean? We have to look at improving the insulation of the walls, the roofs, and looking at new windows and doors. And the reason why we need to prioritize this is ultimately space heating accounts for about two thirds of total energy consumption. The good thing is that our survey told us that in the nonresidential market, these types of investments are the ones being prioritized. Installation is expected to be one of the key renovation categories for 2023. Building managers told us that they plan to boost spend on installation by 8%. After upgrading the building envelope, you need to think about tackling HVAC equipment and rolling out building automation. And finally solar continues to rank as the most attractive for residential energy renovation upgrades. In terms of the motivations, 59% of consumers and building managers say that lowering energy costs was the biggest driver for investment. I think that ultimately makes sense when we think about the landscape of the energy market in Europe over the last 12 months with the big increases in gas and electricity prices. 

Sebastian Isola: And with that in mind Cedar, what's your near-term and longer term outlook for renovation spend? 

Cedar Ekblom: Well, look, the runway for investment is huge. The European Commission estimates that an additional €275 billion of investment in building energy efficiency is required annually to 2030. And that's only an interim goal. If we really want to reach a 2050 net zero ambition, the optionality for investment means that we could be looking at more than €5.9 trillion of spend. If we deliver that total construction spend in real terms would run at 3% annually. That's a big increase from the less than 1% average growth over the last 10 years. Now, Sebastian, we've obviously spoken about the potential for fantastic investment, but there's obviously some big barriers around actually driving this uplift. How is the region trying to tackle these types of hurdles? 

Sebastian Isola: I think the biggest barriers are funding and skills and there's a 'carrot and stick' approach to funding. Government subsidies are coming through, although maybe slightly slower than we'd like. The good news is that private investment really is ramping up, and that's partly driven by better economics, but also new penalties which make letting inefficient buildings less profitable. In the UK, if we use that as an example, you need to achieve an EPC rating of B or higher by 2030 to be able to let your building. To put that in context, 75% of commercial properties in the UK currently don't meet that EPC standard. So there's going to be a huge scale of renovation required for commercial property in the UK to be brought up to that standard by 2030. And that really is going to drive investment in commercial property and in energy renovation. The second challenge is skills. It's not an easy problem to fix, especially when the construction industry is already challenged by a lack of skilled labor. The EU is taking an important step to address these hurdles by introducing the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. This sets a region wide energy efficiency standard and harmonizes how buildings are ranked. It was passed into law in February of this year and we think it sets the framework for a multi-decade investment runway. 

Cedar Ekblom: Sebastian, thanks for taking the time to talk. 

Sebastian Isola: Great speaking to you Cedar. 

Cedar Ekblom: As a reminder, if you enjoy Thoughts on the Market, please take a moment to rate and review us on the Apple Podcasts app, it helps more people find the show.

Thoughts on the Market
Not playing