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Phasing out fossil fuels from residential buildings in Italy

Position paper on the decarbonisation of fossil fuel heating systems through Ecodesign regulation and a revision of the Energy Label for heating boilers.

10 February 2021

The problem: Home heating, according to a recent study published by Cresme (Centro Ricerche Economiche, Sociologiche e di Mercato nell’Edilizia), is one of the main causes of urban pollution in Italy and it is responsible for over 19% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by our country and 60% of fine dust in urban areas. More than 19 million gas boilers are installed in Italy and it is estimated that more than 7 million of them are older than the 90/396 / EC Directive on the performance of gas appliances, with the risk of being replaced by other gas systems, which would be more efficient, but not addressing the local and global pollution problem they produce.

Buildings are responsible for approximately 40% of EU energy consumption and 36% of the greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings are therefore the single largest energy consumer in Europe.

At present, about 35% of the EU's buildings are over 50 years old and almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient. At the same time, only about 1% of the building stock is renovated each year.

Renovation of existing buildings can lead to significant energy savings, as it could reduce the EU’s total energy consumption by 5-6% and lower CO2 emissions by about 5%.

The challenge is to start the phase out the use of fossil fuels in residential buildings, starting from Italy, on the basis of the recent unprecedented energy efficiency measures approved by the Italian Government and hopefully using the Italian example to be beneficial also for the other EU national contexts.

With the recent legislation included in the so-called Decree Rilancio, the Italian Parliament and Government decided to introduce a 110% tax credit ecobonus for energy efficiency interventions in heating systems. However without making a distinction between fossil boilers and installations powered by renewable sources.

Kyoto Club and Legambiente, which recently launched the campaign For the decarbonisation of building heating systems in Italy, feel that financing gas – a fossil fuel - heating systems is a big mistake, given that there are several non-polluting and very competitive green alternatives already available on the market. For example, a clean and non-polluting alternative are heat pumps, which can also be integrated with solar photovoltaic systems and low enthalpy geothermal energy, with higher efficiency rates compared to those from fossil sources.
That’s why we believe that the Italian Government and Parliament, and also at the EU level, courageous choices must be made immediately, such as:

➢ To exclude from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan the 110% tax credit extension for fossil fuel heating systems.

➢ To revise the Ecodesign and Energy Labeling legislation on heating boilers, to ensure incentives for the most efficient systems, starting from heating powered by renewable sources.

To ban fossil fuel heating for new buildings as a logical, ambitious follow-up of the NZEB requirements in the EPBD Directive, also taking advantage of the work carried out by the BPIE, Building Performance Institute Europe.

➢ To replace gradually fossil fuel heating boilers through the Ecodesign Regulation and a revision of the energy label for heating boilers.
➢ To enhance the role of the digitalization measures and of the taxation on the consumption of heating fuels.

From January 1, 2025, to ban the installation of fossil fuel heating systems and to provide for the obligation to install only non-polluting systems from renewable sources that do not produce GHG emissions. The Ministry of Economic Development approves the support plan for companies in the sector for the conversion to zero-emission systems.

In some European countries – Sweden, Netherlands and United Kingdom - the date by which it will be forbidden to install heating systems from fossil fuels has already been decided. We hope that the same choice will be taken also in Italy.


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