EU steps up ‘ambition’ of its Building Performance Directive

The EU is in the final stages of ramping up the provisions of its 2010 Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) to exploit the enormous energy-saving potential that still remains unused in the building stock.

The EU recognizes that building efficiency plays a crucial role in the EU’s drive to decarbonise the economy, meet its climate goals and improve public health. Inefficient buildings require more energy and are often detrimental to people with respiratory illnesses.

Acknowledging the leading and exemplary role of the public sector in the field of energy performance, the revision of the Direcive recommends that the national plans:

– Set more ambitious targets for the buildings occupied by public authorities,
– Provide measures to support public authorities to implement the recommendations included in the energy performance certificate as soon as feasible.
– Involve local authorities on planning issues, the development of programmes to provide information, training and awareness-raising, and on the implementation of this Directive at national or regional level. 

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) was introduced in 2010 in recognition of the fact that buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU.

Currently, about 35% of the EU’s buildings are over 50 years old. By improving the energy efficiency of buildings, we could reduce total EU energy consumption by 5-6% and lower CO2 emissions by about 5%. Annual renovation rates in the EU are only between 0.4 and 1.2%, depending on the member state and the revision of the Directive aims to boost this enormous energy-saving potential.

A big part of the revised EPBD is a requirement for national roadmaps and strategies, where member states will be obligated to hit certain milestones in their decarbonisation efforts. As each country has different building portfolios, an EU-wide one-size-fits-all strategy was never a serious option.

And it is not just a case of installing a new carpet or better windows either. Europe’s building stock, both residential and non-residential, accounts for 36% of CO2 emissions and 40% of the EU’s primary energy consumption. A grand total of 75% of the stock remains inefficient.

Just 1% of new constructions are nZEB and a recent publication by the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that this will have to rise to 40% by 2050 if the Paris Agreement’s 2 degrees Celsius global-warming target is to be met.

There are many synergies between the EPBD and its sister-legislation, the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), which is also being revised.

Lawmakers in the Parliament’s environment committee recently backed a 40% energy efficiency target in the EED, ramping up the ambition of the Commission’s initial 30% legally-binding proposal and the member states’ 27% suggestion.

A 40% target enjoys wide support among building performance experts, as that alone would push renovation rates up to 3% and could create a million jobs, as well as doing wonders for investor confidence and lowering energy imports.

Ambition really is the watchword to look out for in the energy efficiency talks, especially given the results of an in-depth study commissioned by the EU executive into the potential benefits of doing more with less energy.

Renovations are now even being used as a healthcare tool by doctors, in order to improve patient well-being, cut down on the number of appointments and reduce costs. Ireland, for example, is trialling a scheme that provides free insulation to certain people that suffer from respiratory illnesses.

The EU Commission has also seized upon the EPBD revision to push its electro-mobility agenda. In the initial proposal, the EU executive wanted all new non-residential buildings with more than ten parking spaces to be fitted with electric-vehicle charging points but this is being changed to merely ensuring that the same amount of parking spaces are equipped with the infrastructure needed to eventually install the charging facilities.

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October 10, 2017
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