Energy performance of buildings directive: energy efficiency first principle behind the vote during the Plenary in Strasbourg.
The meeting of the European Parliament held last March 14 had on its agenda the vote on the Energy performance of buildings directive, which aims to reach the building and renovation goals in terms of energy and environment, following the so called “energy efficiency first” principle.
The directive is included European Energy Policy framework and intends to support the development of the building sector, that in this way will be as efficient and as climate-neutral as possible. Indeed, also this sector is crucial in order to achieve the goals included in the well-known European Green Deal, which is the main policy that intends to fight the climate emergency at the European level. In this view, it is important to highlight that all the buildings contribute to the deterioration of climate and to the general pollution.
According to the vision of Europe, the green development of the above-mentioned sector, together with the other measures planned to combat gas emissions and pollution in general, will allow to reduce the environmental crisis and, in addition, there will be an improvement for the life of all European citizens, by implementing indoor comforts, alleviating energy poverty and supporting green jobs, with a renovation both for the economy and the society.
The European legislation related to the theme of energy and buildings include two directives: the Energy Performance of Buildings 2010/31/EU and the Energy Efficiency Directive 2012/27/EU.
Together, the directives intend to promote policies that will aim to achieve a highly energy efficient and decarbonized building stock by 2050; to create a stable environment for investment decision and to enable consumers and businesses to make more informed choices to save energy and money. The EU would like member states to follow these rules at national level so that buildings will consume only half, or even less, of what is consumed inside buildings today.
Both directives were modified in 2018 and 2019. In particular, the Directive Energy Performance of Buildings was amended and there was the introduction of new elements in light of technological improvements and in order to support a renovation for all the buildings.
Also in 2021, the European Commission proposed to revise the above-mentioned directive, upgrading the existing regulatory framework.
The directive, with all the modifications proposed, intends to modernize the building stock by making it resilient and accessible. It will also support better air quality, the digitalization of energy systems for buildings and the roll-out of infrastructure for sustainable mobility. Crucially, the revised directive facilitates more targeted financing to investments in the building sector, complementing other EU instruments supporting vulnerable consumers and fighting energy poverty.
Analyzing the directive as amended, the main measures include a gradual introduction of minimum energy performance standards to trigger the renovation of the worst-performing buildings, a new standard for new buildings and a more ambitious vision for zero-emission buildings, increased reliability quality and digitization of Energy Performance Certificates, the introduction of energy performance classes based on common criteria and a modernization of buildings and their systems, and better integration of energy systems (for heating, cooling, ventilation, electric vehicle charging, renewable energy).
The directive thus assumes a general upgrading of buildings so that all structures, both residential and public, can achieve an energy class E by 2030 and an energy class D by 2033. Further target to be achieved is set at 2024, for which there will be a ban on subsidies for the installation of fossil-fueled boilers. In practice, a real ban on the boiler system, although there is no mention with respect to hybrid systems (such as those consisting of a condensing boiler and a heat pump) and with respect to boilers certified to run on renewable fuels (such as biomethane or hydrogen).
The main characteristics of the directive are reported below:
ZERO ENERGY BUILDINGS
Mandatory zero energy buildings (ZEBs). This measure will take effect from 2026, with regard to all new buildings occupied, managed or owned by public entities. All other structures, will have to comply by 2028 (basically, in less than five years).
In addition, nonresidential and public buildings will have to achieve Class E from 2027, and Class D from 2030.
The search for renewable and sustainable sources and their subsequent use is central to the European directive. Therefore, the installation of solar energy systems will become mandatory from the time of transposition of the directive with respect to all new buildings, whether public or nonresidential. By December 31, 2026, however, this obligation will also be extended to all public and nonresidential buildings. Finally, from 2032, major renovations will require mandatory installation of systems of this nature.
Effective financial support is essential so that renovations do not remain just a project. There could even be plans to establish an energy performance renovation fund.
There are calls to increase the flexibility that member countries will have when implementing the directive. At the moment, protected buildings of special historical and architectural value, places of worship, temporary buildings, second homes used for less than four months of the year, and stand-alone buildings with an area of less than 50 square meters could be excluded from meeting the targets.
Thus, the main purpose of the directive is to construct or renovate buildings so that they are energy efficient, since in hindsight buildings also contribute to the environmental and climate crisis we are experiencing. Indeed, buildings are responsible for approximately the 40% of EU energy consumption and for the 36% of the energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, heating, cooling and domestic hot water account for 80% of the energy that the citizens consume. Today, about 35% of the EU’s buildings are over 50 years old and almost 75% of the building stock is energy inefficient
On 9th March the directive reported above was approved by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) by 49 votes to 18, with 6 abstentions.
The directive was also voted during the plenary in Strasbourg. In this occasion, the European Parliament adopted its position by 343 votes to 216, with 78 abstentions. MEPs will now enter into negotiations with Council to agree on the final shape of the bill.
The conservative party decided not to agree on this directive in both occasions.
Indeed, ECR strongly supports a green transition that should be gradual and sustainable for all the European citizens.
Setting goals that are too ambitious and unrealistic within the EU system is deeply counterproductive.
It would be preferable that the EU adopt measures in terms of climate change, recycling, pollution and emission, but in a way that do not damage the general European economy. Instead of setting out unrealistic goals that wouldn’t be implemented in the right way, it would be more suitable to pursue an incremental and suitable process that can be support by each member State.
Also, in this way the Europe will have the opportunity to be as independent as possible from the external competitors, by investing on technologies and innovation and reach more and better pure energetic options.
And, in particular, greenhouse gas emissions must be balanced by promoting the removal of carbon carried out by natural carbon sinks and by developing technologies capable of removing carbon from the atmosphere.
The key word to reach the climate neutrality must be sustainability and graduality, in order to reach a model of European Union that is truly resilient and sustainable, capable of supporting the economies of all countries and becoming a major hub for energy sources by becoming as independent as much as possible from external partners.
In any case, after the approval of the Plenary we should wait for the next steps, where all the three most important European institutions will negotiate about the directive and deliberate a final result, in order to make effective the directive towards the member states.