EPBD: EuropeOn engages with EU Parliament’s lead rapporteur and joins a common call to better include electrical installations in energy performance plans

The EU Commission recently proposed a new version of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which has now landed in the hands of the EU Parliament to be discussed and amended before Member States also have their say. EuropeOn, representing electrical contractors, has welcomed this new EPBD which certainly goes in the right direction. However, we still see room for the co-legislators to bring some extra ambition to this proposal. 

The EU is counting on this revision to address buildings’ energy consumption primarily in order to meet its climate targets, but also now to reduce our dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Both necessities entail phasing out fossil fuels urgently and switching to the locally-producible and low-carbon solutions available, which means electrification. Electric technologies are widely and commercially available to replace the fossil fuel-consuming devices we currently have in our buildings. But the latter now have a larger role to play. Buildings enable the transport sector to decarbonise by providing charging for EVs and flexibility to power grids. Further, they don’t only consume energy but can produce it as well with solar panels.

  • Electrical installations are the backbone of zero-emissions buildings and the EPBD recast must better take them into consideration

Electrified buildings offer so many possibilities and opportunities to address both crises and can become climate resources rather than climate burdens without having to wait for R&D breakthroughs possibly coming in the future. However, this vision does have a thorn in its side, the poor state of many buildings’ electrical installations.

Indeed, electrical installations in buildings, which include the cabling, switchboards and all the components used to distribute electricity, are paramount to support the electrification of energy consumption. They are the backbone of zero-emission buildings.

And that is precisely the title of the position paper that EuropeOn has recently jointly released with other stakeholders who share this vision of electrified and decarbonised buildings. This paper outlines some key steps that co-legislators can take in this revision process to ensure that the EPBD is geared towards the realisation of this vision, making the most of our buildings in the atonement of our climate and energy independence objectives.

Our paper does not ask for an overhaul of the EPBD but rather for some targeted tweaks that will ensure that electrical installations are appropriately considered:

  • Electrical installations must be considered as a Technical Building System (TBS Art 2.6) and TBS must be upgraded to reach optimal level (Art 8)
  • Electrical installations in non residential buildings must be covered by energy efficiency inspections (Art 20)
  • National inspection regimes of existing electrical installations in residential buildings must be deployed as part of National Building Renovation Plans (Art 3, Annex II)
  • Energy Performance Certificates (Art 16 and Annex V) must integrate information about the latest inspection of electrical installations and their readiness to install equipment such as an EV charging point, solar photovoltaic, a heat pump or a home battery
  • Electrical installations must also be integrated in the Smart Readiness Indicator (Annex IV) and Renovation Passports (Article 10)

Read the full joint position paper here.

  • EU Parliament’s lead rapporteur, MEP Sean Kelly, invited EuropeOn to present the electrical contracting sector’s view on the EPBD recast

On 31 March, MEP Sean Kelly invited EuropeOn and a selection of associations and NGOs to discuss the Commission’s proposal for EPBD (released last 15 December) and the key aspects that stakeholders identify as barriers for a successful Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. Indeed, now that the Commission’s proposal is out, it falls to the EU Parliament and the Council to define their own position, before reaching an agreement that will lead to an update of the EPBD, followed by transpositions into national laws.

This Directive is seen as particularly relevant for the electrical contracting sector, given that it provides a framework for the level of ambition of building renovations, including the integration of on-site energy production, EV charging points, BACS, building data exchanges etc., which is in great part dependent on electrical contractors’ and installers’ expertise.

After two years of very strict Covid restrictions, this Stakeholder discussion took place in the EU Parliament in Brussels. EuropeOn General Secretary, Julie Beaufils, briefly summarised our association’s key remarks on the EPBD recast.

EuropeOn globally welcomes the Commission’s recast which supports strong proposals to decarbonise Europe’s building stock, especially through the new Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS). Provisions on EV charging points are considerable strengthened as well.

In order to ensure that the EPBD’s renewed ambition will be effectively translated on the ground and will significantly contribute to decarbonizing Europe’s building stock, two types of barriers need to be better addressed:

A first barrier is the lack of skilled professionals needed to carry out renovations and upgrades of buildings. Indeed, all actors of the construction sector report increasing difficulties in recruiting enough workers -and especially with the right skills- to meet the EPBD’s objectives. This is particularly true for the electrical contracting sector across Europe and this issue is bound to worsen with higher climate targets. This is why EuropeOn is aiming to raise EU and national policymakers’ attention on this topic, with a particular emphasis on technical careers, through our Skills4Climate campaign which has received support from 18 EU associations.

It is very encouraging to see that the Commission is more and more aware of this issue. This awareness was translated to the new EPBD with the requirement for Member States to include skills and workforce gap assessments in their National Building Renovation Plans. EuropeOn is currently looking at way to strengthen these requirements.

A second barrier is that electricity is not yet treated on an equal footing with other energy carriers, even though electrification is an ideal option to decarbonize Europe in a cost-efficient and sovereign way.

Indeed, Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), which play a key role in shaping the decarbonisation of Europe’s building stock, are expressed solely in primary energy, which is in turn using a conversion factor that is highly detrimental to electricity compared to fossil fuels. This situation favours fossil fuels over electricity and is not justified, given that it does not always reflect the real of energy systems. Moreover, electricity generation is already covered by ETS upstream of buildings.

Besides, electrical installations could provide even more performant services if they benefitted from an incentivising framework to upgrade them (see first part of this article).

EuropeOn is fine-tuning its position paper on the EPBD recast and will soon make it public, so stay tuned!