Author: Frédéric Simon
Posted on: EURACTIV | December 20th, 2017
After a third round of talks, EU lawmakers reached an agreement on the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), firing the starting gun to renovate Europe’s entire building stock by 2050 so that it becomes “nearly zero emissions”.
Central to the agreement are long-term renovation strategies that all EU countries will be required to put in place.
The strategies, to be adopted at national level, will focus on building renovation investments in order to reach a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050, said the Estonian EU Presidency, which steered negotiations on behalf of the Council of the EU.
National plans will have to include milestones for 2030 and 2040 and define “measurable progress indicators” such as renovation rates or a cap on energy consumption per square meter. But the actual measures will be entirely up to national governments.
“Increasing energy-efficiency is a no-brainer: it’s one of the cheapest and most effective ways of reducing our energy consumption and contributing to our climate goals,” said Kadri Simson, Economic Affairs Minister of Estonia, who represented the 28 EU member states in the Council.
Another flagship reform relates to electro-mobility, with a minimum EU requirement for buildings with more than ten parking spaces to install at least one recharging point, and ducting infrastructure for at least one in every five parking space.
Although he hailed the EPBD deal as “a step in the right direction” and a boost for local jobs, Miguel Arias Cañete, EU Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, appeared slightly disappointed about the electro-mobility aspects.
“I would have preferred to see a more ambitious commitment to e-vehicles charging points for non-residential buildings,” the Spanish Commissioner said, adding “This would have been more consistent with our commitments under the Paris Agreement and the European clean mobility strategy.”
Bendt Bendtsen, a Danish centre-right MEP who led the negotiations on behalf of the European Parliament, appeared delighted about the outcome, saying the revised EPBD will give “a clear signal that we are serious about improving European buildings”.
“With this agreement, we take an important step to ensure that our buildings contribute to a decarbonised and energy efficient economy – to the benefit of both the climate and the wallets of European citizens and businesses,” said Bendsten, who led an assertive Parliament delegation.
“We will also provide some much needed investor certainty by long-term planning and make use of all available tools for energy improvements – from financing support to building automation and inspections,” the Danish MEP said.
Agreement was a long time coming, however. The latest round of talks collapsed two weeks ago over the issue of long-term renovations, after a late night session described as a “trench war” by one official.
This time, negotiators were surprised by the pace of progress, with Bendtsen saying the two sides “finally met halfway”.
Florent Marcellesi, a Spanish MEP who led the Parliament’s Greens delegation, hailed the deal as “a good signal” in view of upcoming talks on the revised renewable energy directive, energy efficiency and the design of the electricity market.
“It is important that the European Parliament made sure that the member states will have to commit to bring the national building stocks down to nearly zero energy level by 2050,” Marcellesi said, adding that national policies targeting the worst performing buildings “will help to fight energy poverty”.
“This means that more efforts on existing buildings are needed so that buildings become more efficient, affordable and healthier, and the sector is decarbonised.”
One of the last remaining talking points yesterday related to building automation systems relying on digital technologies.
A mandate was agreed for the European Commission to establish a voluntary “Smart Readiness Indicator” assessing the capacity of buildings to adapt to the needs of its occupants – like automation systems for lighting or heating.
“The digitalisation of the energy system is transforming and modernising the energy landscape at a fast pace,” the Estonian Presidency explained in a statement. “The use of smart technologies and the integration of renewables to adjust and reduce energy consumption is encouraged as an integral part of future smart buildings,” it said.
In a concession to member states, buildings will be required to be equipped with automation and control systems by 2025 “only when considered technically and economically feasible,” according to the Estonian Presidency, leaving much room for discretion at national level.
The revised EPBD also sets up voluntary energy performance databases where national governments can file data collected through energy performance certificates.
Alix Chambris, director of public affairs at Danish energy efficiency company Danfoss, hailed the agreement but cautioned that much remains to be done when member states transpose the law.
“The deal will pave the way for more investments in building automation and controls and energy savings. Basic requirements such as individual room temperature controls and assessment of energy performance in real life conditions will ensure that the clean energy package is really for all.”
Probably the toughest part of the talks between Parliament and Council related to building inspections.
In the end, it was agreed that inspections of heating and air conditioning systems will be simplified and that member states will be sole competent to decide on the appropriate inspection measures and their frequency. But a uniform threshold for all inspections was agreed, at 70 kW.
In addition, a feasibility study will be carried out to possibly introduce inspections for stand-alone ventilation systems. In order to simplify the process of increasing energy efficiency and rationalise the costs of inspections, effective “alternatives” can be put in place, such as advice.