To be successful the upcoming EBPD must better consider electrical systems.

As we wait for the final proposal for the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), we have to remember that this is a key legislation in the attainment of our climate targets. With new emission reduction targets coming up in 2030 already we have to be as energy efficient as possible and make use of all the measures we can immediately deploy.

For EU regulators, this means adopting an ambitious EPBD that will drive building decarbonisation as of now. For buildings this means tapping into the most effective decarbonisation tool that is currently available: electrification. We know that electrifying our buildings will lead to more energy efficiency and better integration of renewable energy in our buildings’ energy consumption, while offering more value to consumers. Electricity will be the backbone of decarbonised building stock and must be supported and safeguarded in energy legislation. EuropeOn has been strongly communicating on the benefits of electrification throughout 2021 with the Electrification alliance, via our ElectrifyNow campaign.

Against this backdrop, it is strange that electrical systems have not been considered to a wider extent in the EPBD.

Indeed, many EU buildings have outdated electrical systems which were meant for 20th century energy consumption patterns. We know 132 million domestic electrical installations are considered to be obsolete (built before 1990 and not renovated) and approximately 50% of domestic accidental fires have an electrical source (FEEDS).

But this is not just a matter of renovating electrical systems, we must also upgrade them to ensure the safe and efficient integration of renewable and clean energy in buildings. For example, integrating solar panels, battery storage and electric vehicles’ charging points to a building can put existing electrical installations to strain. A successful green and digital transition calls for robust electrical systems!  

Today, EuropeOn alerted the Commission to this issue and asked, along with like-minded stakeholders, that the EPBD is appropriately geared towards electrification by specifically addressing electrical systems.  

In order to truly prepare our buildings for decarbonisation and electrification, electrical systems must be renovated where necessary to ensure they are also ‘fit for 55’ and possibly upgraded to include automation and smart features, taking the efficiency of electricity to new levels. This can take place by clearly including this aspect in national Long Term Renovation Strategies and in the definition of Technical Building Systems in the EPBD. Further, periodical and ad-hoc electrical inspection regimes will ensure safety and efficiency of our electrical systems, especially as we add new renewable technologies such as solar PV or electric vehicle charger.

Inspections are especially interesting as this is often an opportunity for home-owners and landlords to understand the full potential of their properties to contribute to decarbonisation. Electrical professionals inspecting and assessing these systems are well-placed to offer valuable advice on the best course of action to lower energy consumption and integrate more renewables. This could also be supported in funding instruments such as the European Social Fund but also national climate funding.

As our buildings decarbonise and evolve towards more integration with our energy and transport systems, it is key that the EPBD supports this effort and ensures buildings can be renewable energy hubs. Integration with energy systems can be facilitated by extending automation and control systems to more buildings, by lowering the mandatory minimum capacity for mandatory BACS installation (from the current 290kW of heating/cooling power to 70kW) and including the residential sector. With digitalisation, we are learning about the potential of data and buildings are no exception. Data generated by automation systems should be made available to third parties acting on behalf consumers, possibly in real-time, to enable new services such as remote energy management and predictive maintenance.

Thanks to the development of electro-mobility, our buildings can benefit from their integration with our transport system. The EPBD already foresaw the preparation of car parks for EV charging, but this must now go much further. We see no point in building new parking spaces that are not (smart) charging ready. This means ensuring that there are conduits for electrical cable leading to all parking spaces and providing large-enough electrical installations to power as many chargers as there are parking spaces.

As we eagerly await the release of the EPBD scheduled for mid-December, we encourage you to have a look at our position paper.