* EU commissioner: refitting buildings will save energy,
* Proposed target of 3 percent of public buildings per year
* Construction firms would benefit
By Tom Miles
DAVOS, Jan 28 The European Union may pass
a triple whammy environment policy in the first half of this
year that would bring a rapid jobs boost, cut energy bills and
improve the environment by one simple measure: keeping Europe's
buildings in good repair.
Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the EU Energy
Efficiency Directive includes a commitment to retrofit a certain
number of public buildings each year, improving insulation and
"We have proposed a percentage of 3 percent a year, and
that's out of an employment perspective as well," she told
Reuters at the World Economic Forum at Davos.
"One of the few things that can create jobs very, very fast
in Europe is if you actually doing something with retrofitting
pipes, retrofitting energy systems, retrofitting houses - that
creates jobs very, very quickly after you have adopted these
kind of policies. There are not so many other issues that can do
With Europe's economy in the doldrums because of the euro
zone debt crisis and unemployment at 9.8 percent in November,
politicians are desperate for ways of providing growth but
unwilling or unable to pay for a stimulus package.
Better insulation for Europe's buildings would help a
construction sector that "needs it very badly", Hedegaard said.
"It's estimated that that energy efficiency alone could
generate 500,000 jobs in the years up to 2020. But we also have
other initiatives in the climate field where all in all there is
the potential of creating 2 million new jobs up to 2020, if we
get it right.
"It's a sector where they could actually have the labour in
there very fast."
Companies that might benefit from a revamp of public
buildings include insulation specialists Kingspan Group
and SIG Plc, as well as builders like German
construction firm Hochtief.
Cutting energy use is also an important policy aim because
of the twin risks of environmental damage and reliance on
expensive energy imports. The EU has put an embargo on oil
imports from Iran from July, further squeezing its supplies.
The retrofitting work would be supported by the EU budget
and would help European governments to save money in the future
by cutting wasteful energy use, as well as boosting employment.
The European Parliament and EU member governments would have
to back the proposal, which the European Commission launched
last autumn. Denmark, the current holder of the European Union
presidency, is determined to have the measure in place by the
time its six month term ends in June, Hedegaard said.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Peter Graff)